Java creator says Google's use of Java is "odd"

Device makers are left to their own without compatability testing and oversight

Google's implementation of Java for Android is odd, says Java creator James Gosling, and done without ensuring Android implementations are compatible with one another.

According to an interview with Gosling published by eWeek Europe, Gosling describes Google's approach as:

"It's really hard to tell what their intentions are with Android. They put this thing out there, and you've got lots of people picking it up. The big attraction seems to be the zero on the price tag. But everybody I've talked to who is building an Android phone or whatever, they're all going in and they're just hacking on it. And so all these Android phones are going to be incompatible."

On the one hand, Gosling seems to be giving Google the shame-on-you finger stroke as a defense of Sun's decision to charge licensing fees, which he says is what funds compatibility testing. This testing helps to ensure that areas like GPS APIs look the same between handset manufacturers, he says. When it comes to Android with no licensing fees and no one in charge, to Goslings point of view, there will be no way to get the device makers to agree on standards for doing anything. Of course, one can argue that it is Sun's attitude toward Java that is odd. Java, the quasi-open, quasi-open source platform has been under the thumb of Sun for so long; some parts of it are free, others are under the umbrella of license-fee restrictions.

But that doesn't mean that Gosling doesn't have a point. And maybe he has the ultimate point of how to marry the worlds of completely open software with proprietary, closed, licensed and controlled software. That is, do something in between. Charge a few fees and use that to support the ultimate goal of open software, compatability. Handset makers come from a world so proprietary, they make Microsoft look like an open-source icon. There is no reason to believe that if they are not forced to support interoperability between handsets they will do so voluntarily -- especially if it might cost them money (such as paying for interoperability shoot-outs). And that is down-the-road trouble for users. Applications built for one Android platform might not be able to run on another. If device manufacturers opt to alter or extend their phones to offer software features that will differentiate their devices from the pack, you've got another million-flavors-of-Unix in the making.

This could in the end up driving folks into the arms of Apple and Microsoft whose controlling ways might be objectionable, but at least do something to ensure that an iPhone app works on every iPhone and a Windows Mobile app works (more or less) on every Windows Mobile phone. And making competitors look good certainly is not what Google wants. The zero license fee entry point to use Android is nice for the handset makers (and a classic tactic to jump start a developer's market). But the user will soon want some assurances that their mobile apps work on the phones they decide to buy. (Also see: Android Market: Tear Down This Wall! Why the Android market needs help and needs it now.)

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