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Is Oracle Becoming the New Microsoft?

Is Oracle Becoming the New Microsoft?

In the span of just one week, Oracle made two major moves that sent open source aficionados into fits: It sued Google over alleged misuse of Java and shut the door on OpenSolaris. "Oracle is an enemy of everyone," said blogger Martin Espinoza. "It is in their best interest to keep their fork of MySQL weak, and indeed to do anything they can to sell seats of Oracle, the world's most overpriced RDBMS."

By Katherine Noyes
08/23/10 5:00 AM PT

"Oracles are dumb," the great John Milton once wrote, and though it may not be the meaning he intended, that's a fair description of the prevailing sentiment in the Linux blogosphere these days.

It's a single Oracle being referred to today, of course -- Oracle Corporation, that is, owner of Sun, jealous protector of Java and Solaris, and just possibly the most widely despised company in the FOSS arena of late, excepting of course Microsoft.

Is it any surprise? Between its little lawsuit against Google and its decision to pull the plug on OpenSolaris, it surely must have expected at least a little Linuxy wrath.

Let's just say it can't be disappointed.

'The New Darth Vader?'

"Is Oracle becoming an 'evil empire?'" was the headline over at ZDNet, for example.

"Oracle: The New Darth Vader?" was the question asked at PCWorld.

"Oracle is appearing to become more and more of a roadblock to Linux development," wrote helios on LXer, meanwhile. "If it can be used to make their stockholders happy, then we're in good shape, otherwise, don't look to Oracle for any altruistic behavior on the FOSS front."

Comparably dark thoughts were being expressed about the company by bloggers far and wide, so Linux Girl knew it was time to dig deeper.

'An Enemy of Everyone'

"Oracle is an enemy of everyone," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told LinuxInsider. "It is in their best interest to keep their fork of MySQL weak, and indeed to do anything they can to sell seats of Oracle, the world's most overpriced RDBMS."

Sun was "buying companies and firing the knowledgeable -- and thus expensive -- employees as fast as it could, and then it was bought by Oracle, which can only mean that those purchased products will go downhill even faster," Espinoza added. "Many of them are things which businesses depend on, and which were good products before they were purchased by Sun and it became impossible to get support.

"I can only imagine that Oracle sees itself as a sort of future Computer Associates, except more successful," he concluded. "I see them as eventually becoming more of the same."

'Google Is Going to Pull Out All the Stops'

Indeed, "the twits!" blogger Robert Pogson exclaimed. "Playing the role of patent troll is unbecoming a business that is supposed to have leadership in IT."

It appears that "Google did only legal things in creating a virtual machine to handle Java byte-code," Pogson asserted. "To attack Google using a bunch of really questionable software patents is absurd."

Very likely, "this insanity has something to do with the personal relationships of Apple and Oracle at the top," Pogson suggested. "Google's product is undermining Apple's. I expect Google is going to pull out all the stops: patent-counterclaims, entry into the enterprise database market and a suit against Apple for interfering through Oracle."

'A Lot Will Go Elsewhere'

Along the way, "I fully expect one of Google's arguments in court will be that software patents are illegal and at least that Oracle's are illegal," he predicted.

If Oracle succeeds in enforcing its patents against Java, however, it will drive developers and businesses away from the technology Visit the VMware Tech Center, Pogson added.

"Some may just pay the tax, but a lot will go elsewhere, particularly the smaller businesses and individual programmers," he predicted. "There are lots of other languages available."

'A Multibillion-Dollar Blunder'

Oracle's move could have expensive consequences, asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"If Oracle thought they could fly under the radar with this one, they were mistaken," she began. "In one week Oracle has managed to undermine a core technology. This is a multibillion-dollar blunder, way bigger than Microsoft's Kin fiasco, and one that won't go away quietly. The worst part is that Android doesn't use Java."

Why did Oracle do it? "My guess is that Oracle sees the Java licensing market drying up, not just for mobile devices but eventually in the corporate world," Hudson suggested. "After all, how long before Google decides to expand the Dalvik engine to run on corporate servers, with better performance than the JVM can give? Or on the over-hyped cloud?

"Couple that with Google's promise to eventually allow apps written in PHP, Python, Perl and Ruby to run on Android, and Java's financial future starts to look grim," she explained.

'They Don't Get Open Source'

Meanwhile, "not only are former supporters of Java trash-talking both Java and Oracle, they're also looking at alternatives for another former Sun property that Oracle bought: MySQL," Hudson warned. "If the idea of acquiring Sun was to build a friendly path from open source to Oracle's closed-source solutions, this wasn't the way to do it."

It's just possible OpenOffice is also on Ellison's "TODO" list," she added -- "better download the source from Oracle's site while we still can."

Indeed, "it wouldn't surprise me if OpenOffice ends up gone as well, with only Star Office remaining, or perhaps being sold off to IBM for their Lotus Symphony," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet agreed. "Oracle has to make up for all the money they spent for Sun, and the best way they can do that is to kill the FOSS offerings."

All in all, "the problem with Oracle is that they tend to be very controlling when it comes to things they think they own," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack concluded. "I think it's fair to say they don't get open source in any case, other than tweaking Linux to make their database run better."


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