Oracle Thrives Despite Java Concerns

Stephanie is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) stock continues to rise, despite recent concerns about the company's flagship product, Java. Several major news outlets have been urging consumers to disable the software in browsers, even providing step-by-step instructions to do so. Making matters worse for Oracle, the warning originated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The warning alleges that there is a weakness in Java that could allow miscreants to grab credit card information and other personal information from browsers. Unfortunately, disabling Java means certain websites and advertisements will no longer load, potentially cutting into a user's ability to do the things they've always done.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, these cybercriminals are using something called a "web exploit pack," which is being sold for $1,500. Intel's security software McAfee explains that these exploit packs are nothing new to the web, with a list of impacted services including Java, PDF exploits, and more.

One of the reasons Java is such a popular target is that its code is so popular. In fact, the company has estimated the software is on more than 850 million PCs worldwide, with regular updates available to patch vulnerabilities. While the company insists update 11 will fix this, experts are warning users that this might not be enough. This could spell trouble for Java's future earnings as consumer faith is shaken by all of the raucous.

Technology providers aren't taking any chances, however. The plugin was disabled on Macs and browser provider Mozilla joined the government in urging users not to use it. According to an interview on ZDNet, the exploit could take as long as two years to fix, leaving unwitting consumers vulnerable. As a result, Rapid7's H.D. Moore is urging consumers to simply disable Java permanently.

"The safest thing to do at this point is just assume that Java is always going to be vulnerable," Moore states. "Folks don't really need Java on their desktop."

If we're heading toward a future where Java is deemed "unnecessary" what does that mean for Oracle? The company has already established how it feels about competitors, suing Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) for patent infringement when the company included Java code as part of its Android operating system. The judge found that Oracle could not copyright Java application programming interfaces. In other words, Google is free to use Java as part of its operating system...at least unless an appeal is successful.

There is another alternative. Google could come up with its own Java alternative. The company is powerful enough to use its own technology to render Java unnecessary. Apple is another company that might benefit from creating its own Java alternative. In fact, Steve Jobs is notoriously quoted for eschewing Java adaptation, stating, "Java's not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It's this big heavyweight ball and chain." Actually, Java is used quite often these days, especially on mobile devices. But does anyone know precisely what doesn't work on the iPhone because of the absence of Java? Whatever it is, Apple could easily provide a workaround, built into its own browser.

Java is only one of the company's products. Oracle databases power the software we use every day. The company will still be viable, but if the product that has been running on millions of machines is removed, the software definitely loses a little of its cachet.

It's important to note, though, that if users remove Java completely, they'll quickly learn just how much they depend on it. I removed it and couldn't even access Gmail. Many users will instead have to opt to disable the add-ons in their browsers, which is outlined in detail throughout many of these warnings.

All of this publicity doesn't bode well for Oracle, although the company's stock doesn't yet seem to be suffering for it. Oracle technology drives so many of the applications and websites we use every day, even without having it enabled, consumers will still be accessing Oracle databases. The company is also focusing on Cloud-based server storage options to match the way consumers are using technology today. Still, it might be worth keeping an eye on Oracle's stock for a few weeks to see if all the negative publicity about Java really does make a difference.


stephfaris has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Oracle.. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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