This is one of those times when you have to wish, as Henry Kissinger famously did, that they could both lose. Google’s original pure-as-the-driven-snow exhortation “don’t be evil” has, well, drifted; it’s been the running rumor for at least 30 years that Larry Ellison is in fact a Romulan spy. And the current battle is just another campaign in the war over the Java programming language that has been going on practically since it was first released.
The core of the problem is that Sun Microsystems started with the altruistic notion that Java should be available to everyone, and work on all platforms — “Write once, run anywhere.” It started out with great promise and a technical basis that made it achievable. Sun, under CEO Scott McNealy, thought that if everyone was using a Sun language, Sun couldn’t help but profit.
I was one of the first people, outside the group at Sun that developed Java, to use the language, first at IBM and then at Sun itself, so I watched a lot of this from the inside.
“Write once, run anywhere” had one essential problem: to make it work, the core of Java had to be uniform. Any Java programmer anywhere had to be able to depend on the basic properties of the language, and Java was structured in such a way that part of those basic properties was a collection of libraries of useful code.
(If you’re not technically inclined, bear with me — I’m going to explain this in more detail eventually.)