Friday, April 21, 2006

Big Trouble In Little Kyoto

The Register has some interesting analysis of the slanging match that has developed between Larry Ellison and Red Hat chief executive Matthew Szulik sparked by the latter's purchase of JBoss.

"Why should [Oracle] buy an operating system when it can rely on partners like Red Hat and Novell to take responsibility for R&D of the distro themselves?

The only possible justification is if Oracle feels that by owning the operating system, it can also "own" a growing number of open source software developers. These developers can then help drive integration between the distro and Oracle's applications. Owning the operating system would certainly confirm the view Oracle is working towards an open- and closed-source stack that is certified to work together."

Of course, putting out a Linux distro means Oracle will be able to position itself in the same space as Microsoft operates, running MS applications on an MS operating system. Certainly Oracle licences look a lot cheaper when we don't have to pay for the OS licence too.

Incidentally, I see Szulik is claiming Oracle is like the old giants of the American automotive industry and that open source software companies are going to do to Oracle what Japanese car manufacturers did to General Motors in the seventies. The problem with such an analysis is that it misunderstands the nature of those Japanese companies. Really those companies were merely the automobile manufacturing arm of giant combines. These keiretsu were derived from the old samurai zaibatsus and each owned a bank, a ship builder, an electronics company, a white goods manufacturer, etc. Such ownership patterns are forbidden by US anti-trust laws but they gave the Japanese a competitive edge: difficulties in the car market could be offset by boom times in shipbuilding.

So really, Oracle producing its own Linux distro is much closer to the Japanese model than it might seem at first. And I bet Ellison, the daimyo connecting primally to his running water and cut unfinished wood, knows it.


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