Oracle's backstabbing, cutthroat legacy resurfaced last night in grand fashion, no doubt after all its execs flying back from LinuxCon cleared the runway.
Oracle had a huge presence at the Linux conference this week. Wim Coekarts, senior vice president of Linux Engineering at Oracle, delivered one of the first major keynotes at the show. Did he know?
Then, just hours after the three-day conference ended, after Eben Moglen's somber keynote about more patent litigation, the proprietary software giant violated the biggest no-nos in the open source world and filed a major patent infringement case against Google's Linux-based Android.
When I read the headline, I had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1. How rude, really.
I mean, it's sort of like being the best man at a friend's wedding and trying to kill the couple after the reception.
But perhaps I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Maybe Oracle was quietly challenging Google to get them to put their code back into the kernel -- or to give MeeGo a better prospect in the Linux mobile market? Was there some way this could be interpreted as a pro for open source? No. No.
Then I remembered that this is still Larry Ellison's company. There's no silver lining here for open source advocates. I covered both Oracle and Microsoft in the 90s and 00s and concluded that while both were vicious competitors that the former was far more of an evil empire than the latter.
You know, Ellison, the guy who bought up all of his rivals in the application market to kill competition? The guy who opened his heart to the channel in the mid 90s --and then after stealing their customers and clients -- showed them the door? The one whose paid assassins way oversold extremely complicated, extremely overpriced software to corporate customers -- and left them hanging in the wind? The one who launched his own brand of Linux -- and set off a firestorm about fragmentation?
He's got tons of money, tough lawyers and ownership of Sun, Java, OpenOffice and MySQL -- and by virtue of becoming part of the community last year -- deeper insights into the entire FOSS community, that is, its Achilles heels and other less known details open source companies don't like to share with their proprietary nemeses.
Starting to feel nauseous?
We should not be surprised. Oracle is a proprietary software company whose fortune and future is heartily threatened by open source. His deal to buy Sun -- an obvious end run around the feds to get mySQL -- has always been suspicious.
Now, armed with the recent Bilski decision, Ellison is ready to do what Microsoft has not done : take Linux to court.
And it's going to be a doozy -- far more animated than the IBM-SCO yawner.
Ironically, Google -- which has been in the doghouse with a few in the industry -- has become the de facto open source love child overnight.
I heartily agree with my colleague Dana Blankenhorn, who advises Google to stand tough against the threat of patents and not to succumb to the temptation to sign a compromise with Oracle that spells trouble for the company and indeed the open source community for years to come.
Business is business. But really, Larry, sending your guys to LinuxCon?
Miss Manners would disapprove.
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