Larry Page Says Android Not Critical to Google

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During questioning by attorney David Boies on Wednesday, Google CEO Larry Page claimed that the Android operating system isn’t critical to Google’s future. The comment came during testimony in Oracle’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Google. Oracle, which bought Java-creator Sun Micrososystems in 2009, has accused Google of copying Java APIs in the Android operating system without a license.

Oracle, Google, Sun, Java Android

Oracle CEO and Larry Page have both testified in the case, with Mr. Page taking the stand starting on Tuesday. That session didn’t last long before Judge William Alsup—who oversaw Apple’s copyright case against would-be Mac cloner Psystar—adjourned court for the day.

On Wednesday, however, Larry Page faced off against David Boies, Oracle’s lead attorney on the case. Another blast from the tech past, David Boies was the lead attorney in the U.S.’s antitrust trial against Microsoft. That case resulted in a court-ordered breakup of Microsoft, a remedy that was subsequently thrown out on appeal, after Mr. Boies was no longer on the case.

According to ZDNet, Mr. Page spent much of his time on the stand not directly answering questions, earning admonishments from Judge Alsup to be more direct in the process. An example of one exchange between the judge, Mr. Page, and Mr. Boies.

Boies: This is a yes or no question. Mr. Page, do you, from your own personal knowledge and experience in the industry, know that Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation of the Java platform?
Page: I think they wanted to patrol the Java platform.
Judge Alsup: You can answer that question “yes” or “no,” please. You can say “yes” or “no,” and give an explanation, or say “I don’t know.”
Page: I’m sorry. Repeat the exact question.
Boies: I’ll try, your honor. Do you know, sir, from your own personal knowledge and experience in the industry that Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation of the Java platform?
Page: Now or previously?
Boies: Let me break it up. Did you know, in 2005, from your own personal knowledge and experience in the industry that Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation of the Java platform?
Page: Um, yes, subject to patrol and other things I mentioned.

According to USA Today, Mr. Page also claimed not to know Google’s policies for copying intellectual property owned by other companies. ZDNet noted that he wasn’t sure whether or not he knew an advisor working for Google named Tim Lindholm, or if he recognized documents being presented by Oracle as internal Google documents.

It was another topic, however, that we found most interesting. CNBC reported that Mr. Page acknowledged that Android was important to Google, but disputed the notion that it was critical to his company’s future.

This, despite the fact that Google purchased Motorola Mobility for US$12.5 billion, a move that was widely seen as an effort to boost intellectual property protection of Android with Moto’s extensive patent portfolio. Android has been positioned from the get-go as Google’s tool for having access to mobile data and user information, information that it uses to sell mobile ads.

“Computing is moving onto mobile,” Mr. Page told The New York Times in an interview at the time of the Moto acquisition. “Even if I have a computer next to me, I’ll still be on my mobile device.”

Mr. Page has technically finished with his testimony, but was placed on recall by Oracle’s attorneys pending their ability to find someone who can independently identify a document Mr. Page said he couldn’t identify.

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Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The most interesting question to come out of gates is whether Boies is just incompetent in managing a case (visibly irking Judge Alsup with botched exhibit numbering) or whether he’s just trying to confuse the jury, as with his sleight of hand calling API specifications “designs”.

Boies obviously didn’t prepare Ellison very well, as Google’s attorney caught Ellison in two significant discrepancies with his deposition and got him to confirm his very public support for Android using (loosely) “Java”. Ellison’s statements may have been essential for Oracle to pass anti-trust review of its acquisition of Sun—a most interesting point.

Here’s the bottom line. You don’t get to use the GPL or other open source licenses as a weapon. When you make things available under those licenses, you necessarily give up some control of the underlying idea. Yes, you retain rights to your implementation, but the potential for forking is part of the equation and ultimately, one of the most important of the checks and balances that make open source an attractive proposition for all involved.

I wonder what Nemo thinks about Oracle’s case now.


Hmmm…not critical to Google. And it’s not critical to Apple, obviously, since it’s unable to extract any profit from the smartphone hardware industry. I think that leaves just the carriers, no? Well, and Microsoft, who without Android would make pretty close to nothing in the space.

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