Oracle Gave Amazon a Discount on Java to Keep Android Off the Paperwhite – Wait, What?

8281833952_267017ea9e_bThe ongoing Oracle v Google patent infringement spat is currently in week Nth of its retrial, and this week's testimony is shedding new light on otherwise closely-held deals between Amazon and Oracle.

Techcrunch reports that Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz testified that Oracle gave Amazon a steep discount to keep Android off the Kindle Paperwhite.

Yes, she said the Paperwhite almost ran Android, bBut I don't know how much weight we should give this testimony:

“Amazon… had used Java to create [the Kindle] reader for many years,” she said. “Then they had another product called the Kindle Fire and that one they used Android. They didn’t license Java at that time.

“The way we look at different discounts and handle them with customers comes through an approval process that comes through me. I was made aware through that process that Amazon was going to [develop] the Kindle Fire with Android.

“They were now considering a new product called the Paperwhite and they were considering whether to use Java for that or Android.

“In order to compete with [Google], we ended up giving a 97.5 percent discount for the Paperwhite. Instead of what we would have historically offered them, because our competition was free, we had to offer them a cents on the dollar price.”

There's a few problems with this testimony.

For one thing, Java is a programming language while Android is an operating system. It's not clear from the testimony how one would be used to replace the other. Also, part of Android (including Android apps) is _written_ in Java, which is why this makes less and less sense as we get deeper into it.

Furthermore, I can see from my old notes from 2012 that the Paperwhite runs on the exact same software as its predecessor, the Kindle Touch: Linux, with a Java app for the reading app.

The only _Java_ part which could be replaced is that reading app, and that frankly was not a high probability. That app was originally developed for the first Kindle, every Kindle ereader since then have run later versions of that same app - including the Voyage, Oasis, $79 basic Kindle, and the current Paperwhite.

Catz is telling us that in 2012 Amazon was considering chucking over six years worth of work and replacing it with an Android app. Companies do that sometimes, yes, but not without a very good reason.

I can't tell you whether Catz is obfuscating, doesn't know what she's talking about. or if perhaps Amazon tricked Oracle into discounting the Java license, but I do  know we should take this testimony less as historical fact than as eyewitness testimony (and you know how unreliable that can be).

image by grotos

About Nate Hoffelder (11594 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

10 Comments on Oracle Gave Amazon a Discount on Java to Keep Android Off the Paperwhite – Wait, What?

  1. Java isn’t just a programming language. It is a programming language, a pre-written library of lots of useful computer things your program can use, and it is an interpreter that runs the resulting compiled program.

    The pre-written library and the interpreter are the copyrighted bits and licensable bits. The language itself may or may not be copyrightable (I’m not sure). Whether specification of pre-written libraries (APIs) are copyrightable are currently the subject of a court case winding its way through the US court system (I think).

    There are also some patents involved.

    It is possible to take the Java language specification, library API specification and knowledge about the interpreter and build your own.

    In this case, Java runs under Linux on the Kindle devices. Android is also Linux based.

    Based on the story, my guess is that Amazon did what they do best: they exploited a suppliers weakness and got a great outcome for Amazon. The supplier not so much.

  2. I think this is true. B&N uses Android for its e-readers and the Fire tablets use Android, so Amazon could have done that as well with the Kindle. Oracle likely didn’t want to lose what little money they get from licensing Java for the e-reader app.

    Android apps can use Java code but Android uses a virtual machine that uses Java APIs that bypasses Java so Google gives zero money to Oracle; this is why there is a lawsuit. It is a complex issue and hopefully the case will be over soon.

    • I lean towards Puzzled’s conclusion. I don’t think Amazon would seriously discard over 6 years of work and switch to Android.

      But I do think Amazon would threaten to do so to get a better deal from Oracle.

      • Alnost certainly the case:

        At the time Amazon already had an android Kindle app so building the paperwhite off FireOS was quite doable. It would probably require stripping out a lot of unnecessary code but it could be done if the cost of the mods were lower than the cost of licensing Java libraries.
        So it wasn’t a hollow threat.

        What made it possible is that Android includes a Java “clone” (read:ripoff) engine called Dalvik known to have been developed off Sun (later Oracle) Java SDK code. (The Android runtime included verbatim Java code comments in its source–indisputable proof it wasn’t a clean room reverse engineered clone. Google’s whole defense is that no part of Java can be copyrighted so it doesn’t matter.)

        At the time, SUN was tanking and couldn’t afford a long legal fight with Google but Oracle was quite happy to buy SUN and defray the purchase off Google’s pockets even though it wasn’t technically Google that did the dirty deed but rather the orginal creators of Android before Google bought them.

        Android is a can of worms of IP violations, one reason Microsoft (and apparently Apple) makes more money off Android phones and tablets than Google. Much like their purchase of Motorola, Google bought a stinking mess when they bought proto-Android to jumpstart their incursion into mobile OSes.

        The Oracle suit is still ongoing after 4 years and went back for retrial this month.

        http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oracle-alphabet-lawsuit-idUSKCN0XD00G

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_America,_Inc._v._Google,_Inc.

        Bottom line: Amazon played the Android card to save a whole lotta cash on Java licensing.

        • It took Onyx over three years to get Android on E-ink, and you think Amazon could have done it in less than one? And you think it would have been as good of a quality as the previous app?

          I don’t. This was an empty threat.

          • What are the staff sizes? How many coders does Lab126 employ? I *said* the hangup would be cost.

            Besides, Oracle bought the threat, so they didn’t think it hollow. And Oracle has its own horde of programmers on staff.

  3. I think folks are underestimating Amazon’s willingness to shift to Android. Sony did it. And Amazon had invested in “development” in Android in the Fire, so the cost of porting/modifying to the Kindle was not so huge, and Android is free. It would make sense to use the same base on both platforms.

    • Willingness? Sure.

      It’s the ability to do it in mess than a year that I doubt.

      • I understand where you’re coming from–THE MYTHICAL MAN MONTH territory–but adapting an existing product to different hardware is not that big an issue for a *big* organization, especially when the product is an OS (which isn’t a single piece of code but rather a collection of programs and modules) and the CPUs in question are both architecturally very similar (ARM in both cases). And in the case of porting FIRE OS to eink Lab126 would be pruning a lot of code since, unlike Onyx (but like Sony) the end result was not intended to be tablet-like and run arbitrary apps. Sony did it in a year with a small underfunded group and, in fact, the switch to Android was meant to save them money when compared to their proprietary software.
        It most likely could have been done in months. Well under a year.
        Just a matter of how many people they were willing to throw at the effort.
        If anything, I suspect the main reason Amazon doesn’t do it is performance: a stripped down Linux eats up very little resource overhead compared even to Android. The difference may not be much but it will be measurable.

  4. Scott G. Lewis // 22 May, 2016 at 9:34 pm // Reply

    Nate you’re confusing a huge company with a large, mature development team with Onyx, whom virtual no one outside of blogs like yours even knows about.

    Also, Amazon already had a tablet sized OS and a tablet optimized Kindle app. Yeah, I think they could do it in far less time than Onyx, and yes, probably in under a year.

    Also don’t discount them anyway having it in a lab. Apple shifted to Intel rapidly because they’d already been developing the OS side by side with their PowerPC version for quite some time… just in case.

    Anyone who is a large enterprise and has dealt with Oracle licensing gets the just in case concept.

24 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – Tech News Release
  2. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – Rincon Tech News
  3. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World | BeautyCribTV
  4. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World | iTruck NEWS
  5. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World - viralkontent
  6. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – Global News
  7. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – WIRED | Electronic Hot Sale
  8. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – Technology and Computing
  9. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – WIRED | Stylish gadget shop
  10. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – WIRED | The Perfect Computer Mall
  11. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – WIRED | You Buy Computers
  12. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World
  13. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – WIRED | Best electronic online
  14. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World | Geek Daily
  15. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It's Taking Over the World – WIRED « CoolNerd – TechnoGeek Comparison Shopping Engine
  16. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World. – Blog de Antonio
  17. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, It’s Taking Over the World – HOUSTON PLUG
  18. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World | Gerald Pilcher Thoughts
  19. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World - Great E books To Read Now
  20. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World - best coffee machine
  21. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World - Find Life Insurance Agent
  22. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World - Rays Of Life Ministry
  23. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World - Wakaya Perfection USA
  24. Linux Took Over the Web. Now, Its Taking Over the World | Tech Yay

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*