Oracle's filed suit against Google's Android might favor Microsoft. With Google's Android tied up in litigation, and Oracle becoming the latest villain in the open source community, Microsoft has a chance to make inroads in the mobile market and elsewhere.
Oracle is suing Google, claiming that Android infringes on Oracle copyrights and patents that are related to Java. Oracle spokeswoman Karen Tillman said in a statement:
"In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement."
Google begs to differ. Android doesn't use Java in Android, but instead a Java compatible technology called Dalvik. Google claims the Oracle suit is "baseless," and will fight it.
No matter what happens with the suit, though, it hurts Google, and helps Microsoft at a time when Microsoft is particularly vulnerable in mobile. Android use has skyrocketed, jumping to 17.2% market share today compared to 1.8% a year ago. Meanwhile, Windows Mobile has become practically a footnote in mobile, dropping to 5% of the market.
Android's success has been fueled by the large number of phone makers building smartphones based on it. Those phone makers, though, may be scared away by this suit. IDC analyst Al Hilwa told Computerworld:
"This is a typical intellectual property value defense lawsuit, but it can have serious consequences on the Android market and its adoption by OEMs."
Those OEMs could easily turn to Windows Phone 7 when it ships this holiday season, helping Microsoft increase its market share.
Microsoft can also be helped because Oracle will now become public enemy number one in the open source community, rather than Microsoft. As my co-blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out, this suit could mean very big trouble for the open source community, because they could be in Oracle's cross-hairs next. And unlike Google, most of the open source community doesn't have deep pockets to pay for lawyers to defend them. He writes:
"If I were Google or any other company that has shipped Java spins-offs, I'd be worried. I have a sinking feeling that patent cases, such as this one, are going to be far more troublesome for Linux and open source than any of the bogus SCO copyright claims were...This does not bode well for free and open-source software."
Via its acquisition of Sun, Oracle owns quite a bit of open source software, including MySQL and OpenOffice.org. Those both compete against Microsoft software. It may be that Oracle's Google suit will chase people away from using the company's open source software, and if so, it could mean an increase in market share for Microsoft.
So Friday 13th didn't turn out to be a good one for Google, but it may well be good luck for Microsoft.