Amid an ongoing legal battle with Oracle over the Android operating system, Google is considering a big shift towards Apple’s very popular Swift programming language, reports The Next Web.
The report says Google is considering making Swift a “first-class” language choice for programmers making apps for Android.
That means Google would make it much easier for developers to build their Android apps with Swift, right alongside the Java programming language most often used for Android apps today.
Oracle and Google have been duking it out in court for years over Android’s use of certain parts of Java, which was acquired by Oracle when it bought the language’s creator, Sun Microsystems, in 2009. Most recently, Oracle announced its intent to seek $8.8 billion in damages from Google.
Meanwhile, Apple released Swift as open source in late 2015, meaning that anyone can download and use it as they see fit. That means Google is free to mould it towards its own ends, and possibly use it as a way out from Java depending which way that court battle goes.
Still, Google will have some tough, but not impossible, technical hurdles to overcome if it does add support for Apple’s Swift on Android, meaning such a move could be years out, if it happens at all.
For starters, it may be hard to get apps written in Swift to run reliably on Android. If it does, all of Google’s home-built tools for helping developers make Android apps are designed for Java, so they’d have to be rethought and reengineered accordingly.
There are plenty of Swift fans who’d probably cheer a Google move toward the language. It has a dedicated fan base, including startups like Lyft and titans like IBM, an Apple partner. The Next Web also reports that Uber and Facebook are considering moving at least some of their code to Swift.
Apple would likely applaud this move, as well, as it would see Swift become even more prominent in the developer world — where its speed and simplicity have turned it into a hit among developers of all stripes.
“We saw open sourcing as a critical element to make Swift reach its potential to be the language, the major language for the next 20 years of programming in our industry,” Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said in late 2015.
And so, a Google move towards Swift would make at least some developers very happy, while also laying the groundwork for a possible eventual escape from Oracle and Java.
Uber declined to comment for this article. Facebook and Google did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication — though, notably, Google declined to comment to The Next Web, citing the ongoing litigation with Oracle.
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