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If Oracle Bought Every Open Source Company 237

Posted by kdawson
from the gedanken-experiment dept.
An anonymous reader points out Glyn Moody's thought experiment: what if Oracle bought up the entire open source ecosystem? Who would win, who would lose? And how might an open ecosystem grow in the wake of such an event? "Recently, there was an interesting rumour circulating that Oracle had a war chest of some $70 billion, and was going on an acquisition spree. Despite the huge figure, it had a certain plausibility, because Oracle is a highly successful company with deep pockets and an aggressive management. The rumour was soon denied, but suppose Oracle decided to spend, if not $70 billion, say $10 billion in an efficient way: how might it do that? One rather dramatic use of that money would be to buy up the leading open source companies — all of them."
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If Oracle Bought Every Open Source Company

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  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @03:44PM (#33049616)

    Somehow I doubt they'd be buying up projects like Drupal, Wordpress, or Joomla. But I could see them buying up companies like Jaspersoft, Openbravo, etc. that produce enterprise grade OSS tools used for BI, ERP, etc. which does fit nicely into their business market. Although seeing Oracle in action in the past, it would likely be that they would buy then slowly let the products wither and die to they are no longer a threat to their core business.

  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @03:58PM (#33049854)
    I've always questioned the logic of buying an open source company. What do you really get? You don't get the IP since that's open sourced anyway. You don't get the employees since they can always leave. You maybe get some customers, but then those guys can always switch to a fork of the project. Potentially a fork that's being run by the same developers responsible for the original project.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @04:04PM (#33049946)

    All the more reason to acquire JBoss, loot it for the good stuff, integrate it into their other product, and maybe kill off JBoss, or just milk it for a while and double-dip. But an Oracle acquisition of RedHat and its assets at least makes some sort of sense (and they can afford it. RH has like, a $5bn market capitalization, so Oracle will have plenty of change left over) unlike, say, Gimp, or a bunch of random crap like other people seem to be floating as examples of why the concept of the article is stupid.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @04:04PM (#33049952)

    Please explain how you buy open source. The source code is out there in the wild. New developers appear every day.

    If you want to play the monopolist that will invite new people to step in and enter the market.

    That is the beauty of open source. It is the ultimate opposition to monopolist behavior as it makes the barrier to entry effectively zero.

    Of course there are the usual costs or starting a business but with open source there are no real barriers to market entry.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @04:09PM (#33050020)

    There is always support. For example, if an OSS company makes and supports a product, it gets bought out and the company dissolved, then even though the product may be forked, there will be no way for customers to get support for the product. Of course, the ex-employees can form around the forked project, but it will take time and effort rebuilding the customer base and getting the support contracts back.

  • Re:Does it matter? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @04:19PM (#33050162)

    It would cause a ripple for a while, like it has with MySQL, but trust me, in time - we'll have found another FOSS solution.

    I'd say that Oracle's acquisition of MySQL has done a lot more than cause a ripple. If I wasn't already dependent on it, I wouldn't even consider it for future development, and I am eagerly waiting for one of the forks to a) mature, and b) develop enough of a track record to risk depending on it for the long term, or c) to settle on one or more alternatives such as Postgres and/or some of the so-called NoSQL solutions. The situation with Java isn't as bad, as Java has a base of users (and the enormous anchor of IBM's investment in Java solutions) that is orders of magnitude greater than MySQL, so the leverage Oracle can exert is greatly reduced, but it's still a concern.

    Forks -- if you're going to build the necessary developer infrastructure around them and properly support and maintain them -- take time and, more often than not, money. And as a user, transitioning from one ordinary version to another is often expensive, never mind transitioning to a forked version that, more often than not, involves significant changes from the original trunk, MySQL and its descendants being a particularly illustrative example. It's not the end of the world, but it is often a very big deal.

    At the end of the day, if an open source project you depend on is maintained by a for-profit company, and the project is sufficiently valuable, someone will eventually come along and buy its maintainer. And if the project is cutting into the bottom line of the buyer, as was the case with MySQL and Oracle, you can be sure that the new owner will make the change as disruptive as possible. It's a basic vulnerability that is built into the commercialization of Open Source. Whether it's a significant risk with any particular project will vary, of course, but it's always there, and the ability to fork is not a panacea.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @04:32PM (#33050314)

    Yes, but... if we're playing the "what could Oracle do by throwing ridiculous amounts of money around" game, there are probably ways around that.

    For example, Oracle buys up most of the top contributors to PostgreSQL by offering them much better salaries/benefits to work on OraclePostgre than they could get in any other way, and additionally offers them $X giant bonus or stock options or what have you if OraclePostgre has Y% market share by some metric in two years -- such that they legally could choose to compete with themselves in an open source fork, but would be throwing away big piles of money to do it.

    You can't buy everyone, but probably it's not even very expensive in the grand scheme of things to buy enough of the people that matter.

  • Re:sun buyout (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eln (21727) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @05:34PM (#33051016) Homepage
    Sun had everything but a halfway competent management team that knew how to make money. Oracle, on the other hand, has a fantastic management team that specializes in making truckloads of money. You can have all the cool tech in the world, but if you can't make money with it you're doomed.
  • Obligatory Obi-Wan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lotho brandybuck (720697) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @06:01PM (#33051284) Homepage Journal
    As if millions of voices cried out in terror....

    Seriously, what I'd like Ellison to do, is really support openoffice. Improvements, cleanups, Java exorcism, and fonts...

    Larry, everybody thinks Bill has more money than you! Bill is a household name, and nobody (outside of the techies) knows who you are. You can compensate with big yachts and planes and adventures, but you'll never be as big as Billy until you destroy the MS lockin... Office!

  • This won't happen. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CherniyVolk (513591) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @06:35PM (#33051524)

    I think the author of the post forgot about the FTC investigation into Oracle purchasing Sun Microsystems, because of the Open Source interests that would be acquired specifically MySQL.

    This says one thing, the FTC recognizes FSF/FOSS as a market force.

    Should Oracle, or any other company for that matter attempt to buy up any commercial support for FOSS, I believe the FTC and Governments around the globe would have them in court before the transaction could take place. Their 70 billion will be drained from their coffers into the bonus checks of all those law firms.

    Oracle is an IT company, who has had the luxury if evading almost every 'war' this industry has seen. It's what makes them so scary in a way, but it also allows them to maneuver under the guise that there's no historical reasons to over react. They realize, I'm sure, that all their monies come from *us*. Who else is going to recommend Oracle? Expensive, Oracle? They aren't in the position of Microsoft, who can disregard the industries brightest minds because stupid people keep buying computers with Windows installed. Oracle made their zillions, in part, from actually appealing to the people who know a good database when they see it.

    Oracle and the world witnessed this community eat our own, SCO. So I hope they recognize we really do believe in what we preach and will refrain from anything stupid. I think we are a tad apathetic towards Oracle's new toys, but we are watching and a little cautious and so are other people. Had Microsoft tried to buy Sun, we would have drawn guns cocked and loaded, Oracle... we checked to see if we had ammo and sat down to see what happens.

  • Quick question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @08:30PM (#33052416)

    While they're at it why don't they buy SCO as well and end that crap too?

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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