Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz says that it’s been forced to give customers like Amazon and Samsung massive discounts just to keep its Java technology competitive with Google’s free Android operating system.
For instance, she says, Oracle had to give Amazon a 97.5% discount on Java so they’d use it instead of Android to power the Kindle Paperwhite device.
Similarly, she testified, “companies like Samsung that would have licensed a $40 million product were now licensing $1 million.”
Catz revealed these details of Oracle’s business during her testimony today in the company’s ongoing lawsuit against Google. It was reported by Electronic Frontier Foundation Director of Copyright Activism Parker Higgins via Twitter.
Catz: To get Amazon to use Java instead of Android on the Paperwhite, Oracle gave a “97.5% discount.”
— Parker Higgins ☔ (@xor) May 17, 2016
At the heart of Oracle’s lawsuit is the allegation that Google improperly used pieces of the hugely important Java technology in Android without paying properly for the privilege.
Google argues that the way it used Java constitutes “fair use,” and that it’s impossible to copyright the pieces of Java which it put into Android.
When Java was originally conceived at early Silicon Valley superpower Sun Microsystems, the idea was to build a platform to make it easy to write software that ran across all kinds of devices, from Windows to Mac to the web browser. Oracle would go on to buy Sun and Java in 2009.
Sun built out the Java technology as a kind of ahead-of-its-time pseudo-operating system — a set of interconnected tools and services to support that cross-device vision.
But while the Java programming language became a major standard for business software development, the dream never fully came true. Java, as a platform, never caught on with the web, smartphones, and elsewhere, in large part because developers just don’t love working with it.
But Google took chunks of Java, dropped it into its Android operating system, and went on to conquer the world: Not least because the core of Android is available for free to everyone and anyone, it’s now on 80% of all smartphones sold globally.
Which meant that where developers shunned the idea of Java running on smartphones, tablets, and all kinds of other smart devices, they embraced Android. Developers large and small have built their businesses on Android.
So when Amazon needed a custom operating system for its Fire tablets and other gadgets, it took that core Android code, modified it to its own needs, and called it FireOS. And Samsung has risen to the top of the heap among Android smartphone manufacturers with its Galaxy product line.
All of which means that Android eats away at Oracle’s Java business — it’s free, and it’s popular. It means the onus is on Oracle to keep showing customers why they need to licence Java from them rather than go to the free Android.
Now, thanks to Catz’s testimony, we have a better sense at how it’s affecting Oracle’s bottom line, and the lengths it needs to go to to keep customers happily using Java.