The Future of Android

Mobile App News


In this episode, Chris and David delve into their most controversial topic so far which is the recent ruling wherein Oracle has won a big lawsuit against Google. Together they discuss the impact this ruling has on the tech industry, for  Google and if this could lead to the total downfall of Android. They also discuss:

  • Brief history of android
  • API’s and public domain
  • Should Google move away from android soon?
  • Destruction of software industry
  • Chromecast – the new replacement for android
  • Google vs Apple
  • The future of web technologies and web apps
  • Road block to having mobile optimized websites/apps
  • Specific actions developers need to take to prepare for whats ahead

[Tweet “Is the future of Google’s mobile OS Android?  “]


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Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode


Chris: Hi, and welcome to another episode of the app business podcast. As always I’m joined by David Pfahler. Hi David, whats up man?

David: Hey Chris, how you doing?

Chris: Good. We have a really what I think is gonna be a really interesting conversation. Its all about the future of android basically from the perspective or coming off this recent ruling where Oracle basically won the law suit and we’ll get in to what that means. And this is a good one to, if you don’t know what were talking about, go to the app business podcast, this is gonna be episode 34 I believe, and you’ll see the future of android will be the title and download or click on the links so you can see what were referencing. But basically there’s been a bunch of articles that have come out since talking about boys, android just too big of a liability for google to deal with anymore and they’re looking at some other current products and recognizing “Hey, android isn’t very, isn’t featured prominently or at all in some of these products.” Just a lot to talk about as related to the future of android and what Google’s gonna do with it. So David where do you wanna start on this?

David: Yeah, I’m absolutely excited. This is I think a very important conversation and just like with Hoodie we’ve recently covered a technology that is kind of important for what the future will bring and covering these kinds of things on the podcast I think is very important because its also something that will impact the future and that will maybe allow us to see into what the future will bring for our industry and for us as developers. So first of all, this is gonna be, I’m trying to make this comprehensive and to give you read the full picture but at the same time not do a 5 hour long conversation. So its gonna be a little bit of a challenge, but what were going to do and I think is first talk about the underlying law suits and that’s not too exciting but its just the basis of this whole conversation. Its really important and what the ruling, the different rulings meant and then what they will mean for the industry, for Google and in the end for android and then the specific reasons why people are thinking that android could be on its downfall and Google might not be using it a lot in the future anymore. So its gonna be very very interesting, very exciting conversation I guess and even though it has to do with legal stuff I think it can be still a lot of fun. So the law suit initially or the legal battle between Google and Oracle is about Java, the programming language Java and what you have to know is that originally this programming language was created by Sun which was later acquired by Oracle and hence all of the Java rights and copyrights and trademarks as far that applies is owned by Oracle. Then Google started to used Java as their main programming language in android so Google has android built on top of Linux and on top of that Linux kernel there is a virtual machine running which they can execute the Java code in. And its important to know that I think for licencing reasons and also for power consumption and optimizing for low powered devices like mobile phones they have not used the standard Oracle Java VM, but they have written their own virtual machine. Now in order to run Java on something, inside the virtual machine it has to be, the machine has to be compatible with the original Java virtual machine, right? And so what Google did for Android is create their own virtual machine which is compatible with the java virtual machine. Okay, can you follow me so far?

Chris: Yup

David: Okay, now what Oracle is now claiming is that they have first of all they wanted to have patent rights but that was out of the question pretty fast because that’s very absurd, but then they claimed they have copyright not about the implementation but copyright as so far the API itself is concerned. So as I said, Google did not copy their virtual machine which is the implementation of the java API’s but they wrote it for themselves. So you would think that if you do something yourself, then not another person can have the copyright to it.

Chris: Okay so David, let me stop you there and ask a question. When you said that Google created their own virtual machine for Java on top of Linux is that abusing the Oracle’s or Sun’s java virtual machine? And then they created, you said it was compatible with but you mean basically there is compatible because they wrote code via API’s to connect to some other to the Oracle virtual machine, right?

David: They don’t connect to the Oracle’s or the Java Virtual Machine. Java is just a language and so as its not machine language itself it has to be either you know compiled or interpreted or whatever you do with programming languages to in the end have them resolve in machine code that the actual processor can execute and so the java virtual machine is simply just a program that can take in java code, understand it, and I mean that’s dumb down a lot, so the technical people will probably crucify me, but it can take in the java code and it can understand it in such a way that it can make it resolve in to machine code that can be executed and so you can just like there’s multiple people that can understand English as a language, you could also have multiple implementations that understand the same language. So there’s not only one person who correctly understands the english language does a lot of persons right?

Chris: Right, so does Android Google never had to pay any licensing fees to oracle sun for java because they basically went around the need for the compiler or translator to use the english example and built their own.

David: I think that’s whats going on so I’m not entirely clear about the underlying licensing problems buts that’s not really important to you, what is important is that you can have copyright to a concrete implementation, so the concrete java virtual machines, someone has to sit down and write a code so that this program, the java virtual machine itself can understand java and now the next person can come along and can either say , “Hey, I’m going to pay you so I can use the code that you just wrote to understand the java language or I can just write my own code that understands the java language.” And that would be Google’s virtual machine and that’s what Google did and so far everybody thought that just the definition of how a language would work and that extends to all API’s so basically all interfaces, all specifications of software would be free, would be uncopyrightable because its just a way of saying this is how you work with it. Its basically like copyrighting the grammar rules of english.

Chris: Right

David: You can copyright a concrete poem or a concrete text but you cannot copyright the grammar itself and in the first ruling the judge was so determined to rule correctly, he actually learned java and he did write his own programs in java and in his ruling he actually used all the terms correctly and he really made a very good argument for why you cannot copyright an API. And this judge who puts so much time and effort into making sure his ruling is correct and strong, now got overturned by the next court.

Chris: By that he probably doesn’t even use email. Now I don’t know that but..

David: I dont know whats.. it says not totally out of the expectable so basically I mean this is just beautiful language here, I have to quote this, so from a wired article here: “Oracle said that Java API’s were like a beautiful painting, Google said they were more like a file cabinet”. So that’s the difference in understanding here.

Chris: But doesn’t that hammer down the point that, okay you can implement your API in different ways, right? So just because you interact with , you translate java one way doesn’t mean that that’s like Google does it one way, Oracle does it one way. Google does it like a filing cabinet, Oracle thinks its like a painting. Doesn’t that definition right there showed that its not the same thing, so shouldn’t be able to be copyrighted? I mean, I don’t know what were talking copyrighted, just logically doesn’t seem ..

David: You could argue that way. I mean its really like the judge made a very nice analogy and he said that each package is like a bookshelf in a library, and each class is like a book on a shelf, and each method is how to do a chapter in a book, quoting from the I think the ruling here, yes. So basically he visualizes this as a library and he says you can copyright a book but you cannot copyright the way that you organize your books in the library. And so the first judge ruled in my opinion correctly that you cannot copyright an API. And now I think this is the federal circuit court of appeals, has overturned that ruling. And to quote from, I think the same now another wired article here “Oracle won a big legal victory over Google on Friday, when a federal appeals overturned a ruling in their epic battle over the java programming language.”

Chris: 4 years, 4 years going..

David: So that the war language is I think telling it all. Its really not about being right here, and those are just you know big giant companies trying to grab something from one another. So its not like I’m trying to defend Google here, because they’re the good guys or something like that, but the problem is that what this court has now ruled means that there’s no more API’s, that anyone could use if they were not explicitly released into the public domain. So in other words, java was only successful precisely because everybody assumed you could use the API’s freely and openly.

Chris: Right

David: And now, what this would mean is that there is basically no, like free or open interface anymore to software which is not in the public domain. So that would be of course horrible for the entire tech industry but specifically, if Google loses this battle and even just partly or maybe they can come to terms or something like that but if they have a liability in the form of android, then they might be seriously considering whether android is worth this liability anymore. Okay, so so far, so good?

Chris: Yes, but so this conversation go one of two ways, well it could go both ways. One, briefing up what you just said about liability, whats the future of android, is it worth it for Google? The second way this conversation could go which might be another episode or maybe this is just a long conversation, is what is the implication to software and tech as you said outside of mobile, outside of android? I guess its when mobile, where the app business podcast we should talk about android unless you had a quick point you wanted to make over all market?

David: Yes, especially because, its not a long conversation, its pretty much some tough would be horrible. If this ruling as it currently is would be word by word picked up by the supreme court which as well apparently go to, I mean nothing would be as it was. It was literally like a different world tomorrow because all of the tech industries is built, I think almost today its almost literally every single piece of software is at one point with one dependency it has tied to this ideal that you can freely and openly use API’s. I mean Linux does implement the unix API’s, so if I can remember what it is now, but there’s a company which still holds the Unix copyrights, if they would decide to shut down linux tomorrow, can you imagine what would happen?

Chris: So Larry Ellison is really smart because what he basically did, is say “Guys use it, build it, keep tons of people using Java”, and as soon as hes got like this massive critical mass is like, “Oh, I own everything.”

David: Yes and especially because in the times where java was created and with sun nobody would have thought about that possibility like it was so blatantly obvious to everybody that,…use your API, that as what the API was for, its an application programming interface. If I’m not allowed to interface with it, why is it there?

Chris: Okay, so question for you. This is obviously a US ruling and this are two US companies both had court within 10 miles of each other. Could Google say, “Okay well actually, we do all this up at Ireland so you’re gonna have to sue us in Ireland.”

David: Yes, so thats a complicated legal question. I suppose that actually could do it but, and that’s the question which a law would actually be applicable because, not just because Google would officially incorporate in another country outside of the US doesnt automatically mean that each legal battle needs to fought in Ireland, right? So there could be some international contract and laws that would require them to be hold up from a US court even if that would just be for their US business. So you could be a German company like BMW for example because  that’s where I live, right? BMW is out of Munich but they could, they sell a lot of cars in the US and if they have a problem in their cars, you could sue them in the United States for damages although they’re a German company because they did there business in United States. So to sum it up its a hard legal question but I think thats not what it is about but more about like Google will not, leave the United States and the industry is very focus on the Silicon Valley in the United Stated and so in the end in one way or another all impacted by such ruling.

Chris: Yes, okay so with that and this is gonna be appealed again and whatever right, really it matters who wins because of what were talking about right now, right? The future of software. But it almost doesn’t matter at this point to Google because the bottomline is they’re expose to big time with android so the premise is they’re exposed too much, they’re gonna move away from android.

David: What I’m worried about beside the total destruction of tech is if this you know go one step back and this would be in my opinion would be typical of the supreme court is this is a black and white ruling, you can not have a little bit of copyright, you cannot have a 20% copyright, either you can copyright it or you cannot copyright it. Otherwise I think that the supreme court will, what I’m worried about is that they will try to do a middle ground ruling or try to make the parties come to terms and if that happens well we have temporarily saved from total destruction but Google will still have huge liabilities with Android and hence they might be considering and some people on the media already considering abandoning android in favor of technologies that would not would be as liable. And now you might think what that technology could be and of course its the web and chrome, especially Chrome OS is google’s approach to creating an operating system that works basically only using web technologies where at least you know until today everybody still thinks they are exempt from any copyright and liability problems. And theres one specific piece of evidence that people bring forward to support this rumors so to speak because the former Google to be is now rebranded to Chromecast and the chromecast is, what heckas tells us that have basically jail broke into the device, they tell us that its still 99% android but they’re already rebranding it although it doesn’t really use a lot of Chrome OS yet and so the question is why are they doing it?

Chris: Hold on though, its 99% android, but the 1% is the 1% that matters, isnt it the thing that we’re talking about here.

David: Yes, thats right. So thats the point so yeah 99% is also too much. But basically a lot of the thing is still android so theres no real reason to change it to, to change the name, the marketing by the amount of changes in the code. But the marketing is change because they want to walk away from the android connotation and they have changed the virtual machine. And so now they’re not infringing upon these copyrights if it exists with Chromecast anymore. And so people are saying, “You know this makes it incompatible with certain applications so why would you actually use it? Why would you actually do it differently this way?” And so some people will think the only explanation is that Google would want to move away from android and away from these liabilities and want a more web-based Chrome OS based operating system.

Chris: And then to further the talking point scenario whatever is they replaced the managing, the manager of android with the chrome guy like Google, right?

David: Yes, so its like a couple of things coming to play at the same time. I mean I’m just stunned because before I dove into all this research and read this articles, at least just for me it would have been conceivable that android would go away anytime soon, especially not because Google chose to abandon it.

Chris: Well and we do this reports where we talk about the market share and yes financially revenue wise IOS is doing better per device, but android is I forget the market share I’m gonna say it wrong but like 70% of the world wide marketshare. It winning that battle so it is surprising that a leader with that much a lead would then be force to abandon it because its so such a huge risk.

David: Yes, its so.. again I’m stunned. I’m basically speechless because on the one hand, I hate this rulings, I think its the worst kind of legal stupidity that you can come up with but the result here might be that we get a web based chrome OS awesome mobile operating system which would become awesome, so a little bit torn on this actually.

Chris: So Google has struggled with smartphone partners. Now its fine to say that because the same Sun partnership has done very well for them. But there’s also been a lot of lossage related to that partnership with Apple suing Samsung and Apple suing Google etc.

David: Right

Chris: Does moving away from devices and just being an operating system, does that allow for a better partnership with Apple or is it from your perspective, does it still gonna be contentious and its Apple vs Google in smartphones?

David: Well, okay now I think were slowly drifting into an entirely different conversation. Yes its all connected so I was really, from the beginning I didn’t really know what Google wanted in the mobile operating business so there’s this line by Steve Jobs, where he said “We didn’t go into the search business or something like that”

Chris: Right

David: Which basically is why Google, why did you get into the phone business, in the device business and so far it hasn’t benefited Google in any way. You know there’s good numbers, yes there’s a lot of devices deployed with Android and stuff like that but it hasn’t really benefited Google a lot financially and it has now on the other hand this huge liabilities. And so I was questioning whether it would be a good idea for Google to go into the device business anyways? And now they would just focus on providing a web platform, a platform like Chrome OS which would work in more devices more smoothly. Then they would actually put pressure on Apple in a totally different way which is what I have been predicting since time immemorial is that the web technologies will eventually succeed in most places and so rather than competing with Apple on a ground where Apple is extremely strong in terms of  patents, in terms of talent, in terms of just you know taste.

Chris: Right, hardware design , they got hardware design down.

David: And they can compete in a field which is a very different from Apples expertise and something they do not do well at all.  They cannot do web services, we see it with iCloud and MobileMe and iTunes connect and developer portal and you know its all down and broken all the time. And so I think thats something they’re not very strong in where Google is not very strong in programming, in native programming, they’re not very strong in, I mean of course they have a talent but they’re not very..its not really excel at from a users perspective and from a users perspective they sell at web technology. Its a web company, right? So Google always says what makes the web better, is good for Google. While in this case, why did you start with Java then, you know? So and there were this other attempts and there still are, there was WebOS by Palm and  think initially not Palm but then brought by Palm or it is the other way around, anyways I think its still around in some form or another but it doesn’t really play any role anymore. But theres also Firefox OS which is a totally web based operating system on which just now starts to get a little traction in the developer community. So are these other role models that they could use and so okay what this people do wrong but they all seem to try to do the same thing. So theres a sound idea here its just not being executed very well.

Chris: Yes, I need to think about this more coz I wanna, you know the big thing is this Google can’t get left out of search. They can’t get left out of searching apps, you know the math is something like 27% of web traffic is via mobile. And 80% of mobile is apps so if they’re not in there somehow, they’re not able to sell ads and all this other stuff. They’re not able to index all that stuff.

David: But here’s the thing, we already told everybody a dozen times that Google has or android has a lot of the market share and has way way more downloads but they don’t monetize as well. But from Google’s perspective, the monetization is not the problem, its just from our perspective, from a developer’s perspective that we want to monetize. But what Google wants is just control over that ecosystem. And that would be Google doesn’t care whether your website does monetize your ads or your subscriptions or whatever it is, they just wanna be the biggest search engine that finds all of the sites with the best results for you so they can own that search page display paid advertisement. And that’s what they make like all their money with. Its still the case, that’s what drives the revenue for Google and so if you try to apply the same to apps wouldn’t it be much easier for something like Google to use this massive market share and this giant download numbers and you didn’t have native apps that have to be compiled and downloaded and all that kind of stuff and install. But if apps would be just something like websites, where you just say “Okay, I want to use this app now.” , and it would just download very fast because that is very fast now and you could basically use it instantly, there’s no real installing process. There’s not really the need for an app store in the same sense that we have it with Apple. It could be just a kind of a web, where Google is the best search engine. Because right now you can search websites very well and everybody understands that, but how do you search apps? Nobody really knows, even the, even Apple doesn’t know with their app store.

Chris: Well Apple is the worst one

David: Apple is the worst one, but if you have apps built with web technology that would get all a lot easier for Google and it could even exert more influence with that.

Chris: And the road block to that, to having mobile optimize or mobile specific apps or yeah apps, but through the webs is download speed or internet speeds, right?

David: Well, I think its quite the opposite because right now if you download an average app, it has a couple of megabytes actually and I think I have mentioned it before but we, on my end I built a lot of the apps with web technology already and using PhoneGap to deploy them. And when I have my apps ready working, they have maybe a couple of hundred kilobytes with a couple of assets they have maybe one or two megabytes. When I wrap them in phone gap, they have 40 megabytes, but still it is lots, it is like 40 megabytes is not a lot for an app still, so most apps actually, the native apps have a pretty high download number like I don’t know 50 megabytes, 100 megabytes, 200 megabytes where if you would use web correctly, you could bring that download number down a lot. So imagine when your out and about and your using your cellular connection, you have to download a native app just as you have to download a web app, right? There’s no difference, you have to download both copies for the first time and the web component app will be very like much faster and will be usable much faster because there’s no installing and you can only download the parts that you need for the certain part of the app that you’re rendering. And you can lazy load all the other parts which is impossible with a sign and a compiled package.

Chris: Right

David: And so I think on the go especially on mobile and when your starting to download stuff for the first time, that could  be even an advantage

Chris: Well we definitely have taken this episode from, hey Oracle won the lawsuit to hey were gonna be okay, without android it actually might be a more exciting direction anyways and I know its a little bit, you’re a little bit biased, you’re not biased but you already anticipated this direction not because android was gonna go away but because you believe strongly in web technologies and the ability to deliver a good experience through that. I mean thats what excellenteasy does.

David: Yes, I certainly have a kind of confirmation bias when yeah analyzing this stories, but what I wanted to just the listeners know is that they should seriously reevaluate what they think about web technology and web apps and they should be on the watch what Google does the next couple of months and if they turned away from android then there’s a lot of java developers you know unemployed and there’s even less web developers. There’s already basically nobody to be found looking for work and if that turns around and basically half of mobile is now written in java script as well, good lord you better be prepared.

Chris: So well tweet this out but the article that we have been referring off a little bit is from and its a very long article but its a basically the guy making the case that we’ve been talking about today.

David: Yes, well have a lot of stuff on the shownotes, also I can only recommend the podcast called security now for all the technically inclined listeners and there’s episode 455 and that also includes a very nice coverage of the lawsuit.

Chris: Awesome, alright David, my recorder kinda messed up so I dont know how long weve been talking, I’m hoping here’s this recording this conversation. But I think that’s great, this was, we just kind of delved in, we didn’t do any reviews, we didn’t talk about anything, we’ll do that on the next episode. Any closing thoughts?

David: Yes, it was very exciting, I would be very interested in what the listeners have to say in the comments because I could imagine this is a little bit controversial, so be looking forward to what you have to say.

Chris: Well also you know its very forward looking and its not something that they can take action on or you and I can take action on today and tomorrow unless we want to be able to be well ahead of this.

David: Yes, we actually did the action part here, there is this thing where you can take action and that’s something you can generally apply to this problems where you know  something is coming or you might wanna prepare but you know there’s no real next action so to speak. Well then the next action is just to schedule a reminder to keep a watch on the situation or just to check out on the weekend. Checkout mobile web apps for the first maybe. You know just very small things where you can start to interact with it and then maybe when the revolution does come, you’re already in touch with it and you know what the next steps will be by then.

Chris: Right, and were nerd so were gonna cover this again. So keep listening to the podcast as well coz were gonna, I mean thats a part of what we do I think is a try to bring some of the current topics to the conversation so, cool David that was great, thanks everyone for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.


  • Patrice

    Great episode guys, between iOS Swift language and a changing Android OS environment, keeps my iOS and Android devs on their toes!!

    What do you make of Tizen OS from Samsung? That could be huge blow to Android adoption rates if Samsung went their own way (article here

    • Chris Chidgey

      I wonder if this will cause devs to “give up” and start building phonegap apps – meaning Excellent Easy has a bright future! I know it is hard enough with two languages/platforms – let alone Amazon store and other stores…. If Android’s share becomes fragmented – I think HTML/Java/PhoneGap apps win…

Comments are closed.