Oracle and Google continue to fight it out in a retrial over $9 billion that Oracle claims Google owes it for using its Java code in its popular Android mobile platform. And in the process, we’re also hearing details about other companies that may not have been known before. Today it was the turn of Amazon, which Oracle today said ran Java in its Kindle Paperwhite, but only after Oracle agreed to license it to Amazon at a 97.5% discount to beat out Android.
The details were laid out by Oracle’s co-CEO Safra Catz, who gave testimony today to illustrate what kind of competition Google had injected into the market with Android: a race to zero, it seems. The testimony predates the release of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite e-reader in 2012.
“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.”
What doesn’t really get explained here is what role Google actively played in whatever negotiations Oracle was having with Amazon (if any); or whether we should be questioning if Catz’s testimony implies that there was a Java stranglehold on the Kindle before the Kindle Fire tablet came along, or even if what she says is correct. But if accurate, the testimony also underscores one of the bigger issues about Android for rivals: its “free” price tag.
Amazon has not returned a request for comment, and Google declined to comment.
In court, Google also didn’t counter-question Catz about the details of her Amazon-related testimony.
Not true, she said in answer to a question put by her side’s lawyers: it was in order to keep Sun out of the hands of a competitor like IBM, since Oracle itself had already built a considerable part of its own business on Sun’s technology.
Updated with (non) response from Google.