Google CEO Larry Page returned to the witness stand in San Francisco federal court today, but managed to avoid saying too much despite nearly an hour of being held by Oracle attorney David Boies.
Boies’ question was tempered in part by the fact that Judge William Alsup (who was overseeing the case) stopped him from questioning Page about certain documents that were not yet in evidence. But while Page may refrain from saying too much today, Alsup made it clear that Oracle will be able to put him back on the docket later in the trial if he wants to.
Today is the third day of the investigation Oracle v. Google showdown, which is scheduled to go for eight weeks. In three separate sessions, a panel of twelve men and women was set up to decide whether Google was infringing on the copyrights and patents that Oracle bought when it bought Sun Microsystems a few years ago.
In his testimony today, Page made it clear that he sees a clear distinction between the “free Java” that Google has the right to use, and the more elaborate forms of Java that can only be used by has made a deal with Sun.
“There’s free Java and there’s Java that’s a Sun technology,” Page said. Google made a deal with Sun to explore the possibility of working together to build Android, but ultimately did the work itself.
The passionate page answered Boies’s questions on its own terms, in some cases on parole. On several occasions Judge Alsup asked Page to answer the “yes or no” question more directly. “The e-mail chain here seems kind of random,” he said of a document presented to him. Another time he watched a presentation to Google executives and said it seemed “not the right version.”
The first premise of Boies’ question advances Oracle’s key point: that Google is a monopoly, the only company using the Java API without getting permission from Sun in the form of a license.
“You know Google didn’t get a license from Sun, right?” Boies asked at one point.
“I know we worked hard to negotiate a commercial license with Java,” Page said.
At that moment, Judge Alsup broke in. “That’s a yes or no,” he said. “Is it true that you don’t have a license at all?”
“I’m not sure if we ever got a license,” Page said.
Soon after, Boies asked again: “Will Google ever get a license from Sun, or from Oracle, for Java?”
“I don’t think we do, no.”
“Can you name a company that uses the Java API that doesn’t get a license from Sun or Oracle, except for Google?” asked Boies.
“I’m not an expert on that and I don’t know.”
After meeting with Boies, Page opened up more when cross-examined by his own attorney, Robert Van Nest. He explained that Android was developed as a way to get Google services out to mobile phone users in a more accessible way.
“We’ve been frustrated getting our software out to people,” before Android, Page explained. “We have a closet (at Google) full of almost 100 phones, but it is almost impossible to develop through those phones. We think that (Android) is the best way to get services that’s already available to people and lets them search, email, etc.”
Page also describes how the company reached its merger with Sun. It would have been easier to use Sun’s technology and code, and save Google “time and trouble,” he said. But the price was too high. Google went down its own path, Page said.
“We tried hard to negotiate with Sun,” he said. Ultimately the plan we have for Android is a very open source system, and that’s against things like TCK, where they (Sun) charge money to just test compatibility. We are unable to convince them of that, and all. a host of other problems.”
Also testifying today was Edward Screven, Chief Corporate Image at Oracle. Skreven emphasized the importance of APIs to Oracle’s business. Skreven testified about the importance of Java and its APIs to Sun’s business; he also said that Google had “split and fork” Java by releasing Android.
Skreven also testified that Java was the most valuable part of Oracle’s purchase of Sun. In doing so, Skreven mentioned the purchase price: $7.4 billion. Alsup quickly stepped in at that point, telling the judges to ignore that figure. He said he had “nothing to do” with this matter. The judge had previously warned Oracle lawyers not to try to put “big numbers” in front of the jury. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison testified yesterday about his company’s purchase of Sun, but did not mention the purchase price.
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