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Google CEO says Android important, not critical

By Dan Levine and Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Android smartphone operating system is a very important asset for Google Inc, but it is not critical, the company's chief executive officer said in courtroom testimony.

Google CEO Larry Page took the stand for a second day on Wednesday in a high-stakes legal dispute with Oracle Corp over smartphone technology.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Google's Android mobile operating system infringes on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it does not violate Oracle's patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an "open-source," or publicly available, software language.

Under questioning from Oracle's lawyer, Page said Android was very important, but disputed the notion that it was critical. He then said that he would not be surprised if Google's board was told that Android is critical to the company.

The Google co-founder, dressed in a gray suit and wearing a tie, said that the Internet search giant moved to create its own smartphone software seven years ago because the technology at the time made it difficult for consumers to use its online services on mobile phones.

"We'd been really frustrated in getting our technology out to people," Page said.

He said that Google would have preferred to have entered into a business partnership with Sun Microsystems, which developed Java and which Oracle acquired in 2010.

Such a partnership would have saved Google time in its efforts to bring its software to market, Page said, but the companies could not come to terms on an agreement. Instead, Google opted to use what he referred to as the "free part" of Java.

Asked if he could cite an example of a company besides Google that uses Java's application programming interface technologies but had not taken a license from Sun or Oracle, Page said he "was not an expert" on the matter.

The trial before U.S. District Judge William Alsup is expected to last at least eight weeks, and will include appearances by high-profile tech executives. Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison took the witness stand on Tuesday.

Ellison, 67, is a Silicon Valley veteran, while Page, 39, cuts a younger and more unpolished figure.

Early in the case, estimates of potential damages against Google ran as high as $6.1 billion. But the company has narrowed Oracle's claims to only two patents from seven originally, reducing the possible award. Oracle is seeking roughly $1 billion in copyright damages.

Google's Android software, which the company lets handset makers use for free, has become the world's No. 1 smartphone operating system, ahead of the iOS software used on Apple Inc's popular iPhone. Google makes money when consumers access its ad-supported online services, such as Web search and email, on Android phones.

Page also said he was not aware of Google's policies on the copying of the intellectual property of other companies. However, he said Google did nothing wrong.

"We were very careful about what information we used and what we did not use," Page said.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Oracle CEO Ellison said his company had explored building its own smartphone before deciding against the idea.

Shares of Google were down 0.3 percent at $607.87 in afternoon trading, while Oracle fell 0.4 percent to $29.16.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Oracle America, Inc v. Google Inc, 10-3561.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Von Ahn)

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