EU holds up Sun buy-out over open source

Sun has got it in the neck - again - and the EU gets it right.The EU has delayed the now long-running acquisition of Sun by Oracle - out of which Sun's founders stand to make a very large pile of cash - because it wants to investigate a potential monopoly.

Sun has got it in the neck - again - and the EU gets it right.

The EU has delayed the now long-running acquisition of Sun by Oracle - out of which Sun's founders stand to make a very large pile of cash - because it wants to investigate a potential monopoly.

The issue at stake is the database market. Yes, that database: MySQL, which Sun sponsored using the open source model. Oracle is of course the world's biggest database specialist vendor, and the EU is questioning whether Oracle will have any incentive to keep developing MySQL, given that its eponymous, highly lucrative but entirely closed product competes head-on with the open source application.

The outcome of the EU's deliberations won't be known until January 2010 - but hats off to the EU for this one. The US authorities didn't spot the potential conflict and just let the deal go through.

Gartner analyst Andy Butler reckons that MySQL's tiny market share makes the EU's objection incorrect, pointing out that if the developers of MySQL don't like what Oracle does with the product, they can fork the code.

It's not that simple though: it assumes a form of economic equality between Oracle and the MySQL developers, which clearly does not exist. Additionally, a fork is not guaranteed to be successful as this probably result in patent and trademark disputes, which Oracle can well afford and individual developers cannot. Who would want to go head to head with Oracle, whose deep pockets and antipathy to open source are legend?

Maybe Sun won't be sold after all....

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