Welcome!

Java Authors: Trevor Parsons, Esmeralda Swartz, Sandi Mappic, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Open Web

Open Web: Article

Why Microsoft Loves Google's Android

Google's Android As Currently Defined Is a Fork of the Java ME Platform

You won't hear Microsoft say this out loud, but secretly they are celebrating Google's contribution of the Android mobile phone platform to the Open Handset Alliance. At least they ought to be. Android is perhaps the best thing to happen to Microsoft since they won the browser wars in the 1990s.

And given  Verizon's announcement yesterday that they will be opening up their network to any device and operating system that meets a "minimum technical standard" it seems that Android  may  have legs even if Google doesn't secure the 700 MHz spectrum.

Microsoft's biggest competitor in the software development industry has been, for the past 12 years, Sun Microsystems' Java Platform.  Starting in the mid to late 1990s Java began to gain mind share among developers in every area in which Microsoft has an interest. Today, with over 6 million developers (according to Sun) Java clearly dominates the software development industry.  Point in fact, Microsoft had to completely revamp their software development platform in 2000 to mimic the Java platform in order to complete; enter Microsoft .NET.  While Microsoft .NET has been extremely successful at winning back a portion of the developer community from the Java platform, Java has remained the darling of the enterprise and perhaps the most successful software development platform in the history of computing. Microsoft really doesn't like the Java platform very much. Java is Microsoft's  biggest competitor and is arguably the platform to beat.

The Java platform and its standardization process is not perfect. A series of missteps by Sun Microsystems and the Java Community Process (JCP) have contributed to the growing success of Microsoft .NET. The JCP which defines the Java standards has allowed the enterprise platform, Java EE, to become unbearably complex and has created an ecosystem for its mobile platform, Java ME, that is terribly fragmented despite its overwhelming penetration (8 out of 10 phones ship with Java). The foundational platform, Java SE, however has remained a strong competitor and has given up very little ground to Microsoft, but all that is about to change with the introduction of Google's Android mobile platform.

To put it bluntly, Android as it is currently defined is a fork of the Java ME platform. Android is similar to the Java ME, but it's a non-conformant implementation.  Android is not compliant with Java ME nor is it compliant with Java SE. In fact, it’s not really Java. Although it uses the Java programming language, the core APIs and the virtual machine are not consistent with the Java ME or SE platform - its a fork. This was first pointed out by Stefano Mazzocchi in his November 12th Blog entry entitled "Dalvik: how Google routed around Sun's IP-based licensing restrictions on Java ME". Stefano missed the fact that Android does not properly implement the CDC or CLDC Java ME APIs ( a minimum requirement for Java ME conformance) - but kudos to him for being the first to report on the fork. The fork has since been picked up in the blogsphere by others here, here and elsewhere.

The forking of Java is good news for Microsoft for a couple of reasons. First, from a marketing perspective the Java platform's greatest strength is standardization and multi-vendor (e.g. IBM, Oracle, SAP, etc.) support. In comparison, Microsoft .NET is a portrayed as a proprietary platform that locks-in organizations to the Microsoft platform. That's the marketing message which has been used by Java proponents for a decade and it has been extremely successful. But now, with the introduction of Android, the solidarity around the Java platform could crumble.  If Android, as it’s currently defined, is successful then Java will no longer be consistently implemented at a fundamental level.

Microsoft offers an excellent mobile platform of its own, Windows Mobile and Microsoft .NET Compact Framework. It's proprietary, that's true, but it’s consistently implemented and extremely powerful platform for developing Rich Mobile Applications (RMAs).  In comparison, Java ME is a standard that has a wealth of functionality and is supported by dozens of vendors, but its implemented inconsistently across mobile devices making it extremely difficult to develop applications that will "write once, run anywhere". If Android succeeds (time will tell) then Java on mobile devices will loose its hold on the market. Android may win, but Java ME will loose.  If I was on the Windows Mobile and .NET CF marketing department I would be popping the cork on a huge bottle of Champaign the day Android is released. It's the best thing that could have happened to Microsoft's mobile platform.

OK, so if the Java mobile platform will falter because of the introduction Android, how does that impact Java SE? After all, Java SE is used for desktop and server-side development. How is that threatened by a mobile platform? Good question. Here's why: Sun has been moving toward unifying the Java ME and Java SE platforms for a while now.  This was pointed out in an excellent analysis by Caroline Gabriel of Rethink Research. As part of the evidence for her argument Caroline references a quote from James Gosling the "father" in a CNET interview just last month. 

"We're trying to converge everything to the Java SE specification. Cell phones and TV set-top boxes are growing up," Gosling said at a Java media event here Wednesday. "That convergence is going to take years."

But don't take James Gosling's word for just take a look at JavaFX Mobile, which Sun Microsystems announced earlier this year. It's based on the full Java SE platform, not Java ME. In a nutshell Sun Microsystems isn't betting on Java ME for the long-hall, they are betting on Java SE.  After all, Java ME was developed for "constrained devices" with limited memory and processing power. However, as technology advances that label no longer applies to mobile phones in general. Smartphones are becoming powerful, if smaller, computers with complete operating systems, lots of processing power and plenty of memory. The era when mobile phones are simple appliances is coming to an end - mobile phones are becoming a complete computing platform.

The reason a phase out of Java ME and the extension of Java SE to mobile is so important to Sun Microsystems, is that it meets Sun’s original goal for Java. It establishes a single platform for all computing devices. It makes excellent sense and improves the argument that Java is a standard consistently implemented across computing platforms. Sadly, however, by the time that happens Android may have already Balkanized the mobile Java community into Java ME and Android camps.  The  “one platform to bind them all” party may be over before it gets started.

Assuming the demise of Java ME as a standard platform for mobile development is nearing and that Java SE will take its place, the question of a consistent platform across all computing devices becomes even more important.  How do you sell people on Java?  You tell them that it’s a standard used across mobile, desktop, and server applications.  You tell people that the skills your enterprise developers gain writing desktop and server-side applications will translate directly to the mobile platform. 

Unfortunately Android undoes that. It tells the industry that Java is not consistent across computing platforms and that using the Java language, but not the APIs or virtual machine is just fine as long as the end result is a workable solution.  That leads us to the assumption that if it works for the mobile industry than why not the desktop or the server-side? Why can't other vendors introduce platforms that use the Java programming language and some of the Java APIs, but is otherwise inconsistent with the Java platform? What's the harm of IBM or Oracle having their own version of Java as long as it works?  You'll find the answer to that question in historical records when when Sun Microsystems successfully stopped Microsoft from adding proprietary extensions to the Java platform in the 1990's. As pointed out by Maureen O'Gara there is some irony here. 

“The sweet irony is that this greatest threat to Java since Microsoft should come from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the guy who originally led Java development at Sun and signed the contract with Microsoft, leading to the Java wars.”

Java's greatest strength today is uniformity and ubiquity. Take away uniformity and you end up with many different kinds of Java and so there is no real ubiquity. Take away ubiquity and there is very little incentive to choose the Java platform over other options like Microsoft .NET. In fact, Microsoft .NET starts looking a lot more attractive because it is consistently implemented; not Balkanized. If .NET is just as powerful as Java, why choose a solution such as Java that is inconsistently implemented across vendors?  The strongest marketing asset that Java has today, "write once, run anywhere" standardization, is effectively lost.

More Stories By Richard Monson-Haefel

Richard Monson-Haefel, an award-winning author and technical analyst, owns Richard Monson-Haefel Consulting. Formerly he was VP of Developer Relations at Curl Inc. and before that a Senior Analyst at The Burton Group. He was the lead architect of OpenEJB, an open source EJB container used in Apache Geronimo, a member of the JCP Executive Committee, member of JCP EJB expert groups, and an industry analyst for Burton Group researching enterprise computing, open source, and Rich Internet Application (RIA) development.

Comments (4)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...