Recently Google made public its plans to have OpenJDK replace Oracle’s Java programming language APIs, indicating that it might want to explore the features of Java 8 with this initiative. The OpenJDK APIs will be visible in the new planned mobile operating system by Google – Android N.
Google announces that the purpose behind this move is to simply ensure a common code base for developers to build services & applications. This complements the years of efforts and contribution to the OpenJDK community by Google as also indicates Google’s commitment to this in the future as well.
This move can also lay to rest the apprehensions of certain developers who feel that Java is not open enough for the communities to be a robust enough programming platform. Also, considering the relatively slow update process of Android, Google’s OpenJDK shift will allow sync and alignment behind a single Java version in the future.
Technically, Android provides Java API libraries to enable app development in Java programming language. This concept has two different approaches.
- The implementing code developed by Google that makes the referenced libraries work
- The APIs to the libraries themselves
Oracle, the mentor for Java, has two library implementations – the open source OpenJDK version as well as the proprietary JDK version.
The roadmap from Google makes it clear that it plans to put to use the OpenJDK for upcoming Android N release; indicating that it is moving to the open source code version and away from its own implementing code.
The Battle of the Equals
But there is a botched up tale behind this move as well.
In 2010 Oracle entwined Google into a legal battle concerning the copyright violations for Java APIs. This legal battle could have easily been the worst amongst the giants of software, but instead a very mature approach from Google and this battle seems to be drawing to an end after all. Google saves its face by claiming that its move from its rewritten version of Oracle’s Java API to Open JDK is intended to make development easier for Android developer community. But the only slight hitch today is that the earlier versions of Android code might not be rewritten after all, leaving a possibility of Oracle not giving in after all.
App developers are promised of a more unified Java development experience if this works well.
Why Google is worried about being in the clear?
Android is huge and Google cannot afford to go wrong on this one. This is the simplest reason why Google is so worried about being in the clear in this legal battle.
- Estimates say that today there are 2.5 billion+ smartphone users currently, and 6.1 billion+ smartphone users are estimated by 2020. With targets on wireless smart mobile devices, Google will look to further capitalize such opportunities
- There is a very heavy dependency on Google in the search engine market. PC’s account for 65% market share, while mobile devices account for more than 90% of market share to sell ads. People continue to leverage smartphones, where the Android OS definitely has the lion share, all the more reason for Google to continue focus on Android OS considering that an increasing percentage of mobile base is powered by Android.
The Impact on End Users
- There will be no impact to common mobile users, the transition would probably be so seamless that not many would notice.
- Google has released several major Android versions in the past, and the customer experience has remained satisfactory and is expected to be the case this time as well.
- This change is more of consideration for developers and programmers on how to build Android based applications in future with Android N rather than any changes of usage by the end-users.
It is a cake walk to predict the Android N release date. Most definitely it is going to be previewed at the Google I/O 2016, its annual developer conference from 18th May to 20th May. The Android N final version is expected to be released in the fall.
The best to look out for in Android N; besides the name, for which the hot favorite is Nutella are
- Multi-Window Mode
- Default Applications
- Password Manager
- User-Facing Controls
- Permissions Manager
On a Parting Note
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