Google could be heading for a showdown with Sun over the way Android, Google's new mobile phone software platform, handles Java.
Instead of using the standards-based Java Micro Edition (JME) as an engine to run Java applications, Google wrote its own virtual machine for Android, calling it Dalvik. There are technical advantages and disadvantages to using Dalvik, developers say, but technology may not have been the driver for Google.
Google most likely built Dalvik as a way to get around licensing issues with Sun that would have come with using JME, said Stefano Mazzocchi, a developer and board member at Apache Labs.
Phone makers that incorporate JME into their phones must license the technology from Sun if they intend to make any modifications to it, Mazzocchi said. A phone maker could freely use JME under an open source licence if it shares innovations to the software with the community, but most large handset makers are reluctant to do that, he said.
Rather than require phone makers to licence JME as part of Android, Mazzocchi said, Google built its own virtual machine. Dalvik converts Java bytecodes into Dalvik bytecodes.
"Google can say Dalvik is not a Java platform," said Hari Gottipati, a mobile developer who also has been examining the issue.
Google declined to comment on Dalvik.
"I believe Sun didn't see this coming," Mazzocchi said. "I think this was a very smart and clever move."