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Former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz testifies for Google in Oracle trial

Former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz testifies for Google in Oracle trial


Former Sun CEO took his turn on the stand at the Oracle / Google infringement trial, where he described his intentions for how Java should be used — though he may not have been speaking for the entire company as he first implied.

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Jonathan Schwatz (SUN)
Jonathan Schwatz (SUN)

The copyright phase of the Oracle and Google trial has been going on for almost two weeks now, but today saw Google calling one of its last witnesses in its defense: former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Despite him having led the company whose copyright claims lay at the heart of the case, Schwartz's name has been increasingly invoked over the last few days, with several Google employees stating that they took his public praise as approval of Android's use of Java's APIs and class libraries.

"Only one could be called 'Java'"

Schwartz started off by describing the landscape from which Java first emerged: a 1990s world where Microsoft dominated computing, and Java — along with web browsers — offered an opportunity for innovation in the application space. "Wherever a web broswer appeared you could run that application," he said. "Write once, run anywhere, versus write a check to Microsoft to run it." Sun had always intended, he said, for both the Java language and its APIs to be free for anyone to use. Where Sun wielded power was in its ability to grant approval for companies to use official Java branding and claim Java compliance. Even though other implementations such as GNU Classpath and Apache Harmony were in the marketplace and free to ship their code if they wanted, "only one could be called Java," Schwatz said, and that was the version from Sun.

Schwartz's 2007 blog post, in which he congratulated Google on the official announcement of Android, has been raised several times this week; Andy Rubin stated just yesterday that he took it as tacit approval of Google's use of Java APIs. Under questioning by Google counsel Robert Van Nest, Schwartz framed the post with a touch of nuance, stating that it was more of an effort to curry favor with developers in the wake of Android's introduction. While there was no doubt that Android was considered a competing platform, he said that when a competitor comes into the marketplace, "you can try to embrace it and build more value around the edges, or you can litigate and try to stop it." Sun chose the former option.

"I'm there to build our business strategy, not write our legal contracts."

Sun's implied approval of the Android effort has turned into an important element of Google's overall defense. Four of the 37 APIs that Oracle alleges were infringed are noted as "core" APIs in several Java specification documents. Google has argued that such basic APIs should be considered part of the language itself, and if the language was free to use, the APIs should have been considered to be as well. Schwartz said outright that Sun felt the APIs were free to use, but provided Oracle counsel Michael Jacobs an opening when referring to the stances as part of Sun's "business agenda." Jacobs pounced, pressing Schwartz as to whether his commentary about APIs and the Java language represented Sun's legal stance at the time. "I'm there to build our business strategy," he said. "Not write our legal contracts."

Jacobs continued to attack — a sharp turn-around from Oracle's struggles yesterday — pointing out several internal Sun emails where Schwartz had complained about Google's use of Java in Android. He finished by addressing the fact that Schwartz had been called by Google's defense rather than as an Oracle witness. Pointing out that Schwartz left Sun in the wake of the company's acquisition by Oracle — "I believe Oracle was frustrated with my guidance," said Schwartz — Jacobs asked why the former CEO thought Google had invited him to testify. "I was waiting for Oracle to invite me," he said, adding that if Google invited him, "I assume they felt I had value to add."