What Oracle has not learned about open source

The company seems to think it can buy open source like it did its old application ecosystem and force the rest of the open source world to pay its monopoly rents. The company also thinks a mainframe box is a cloud.

Open source requires an attitude adjustment.

Making that adjustment can lead to greater profit with fewer headaches.

IBM made it in the first part of the last decade. I would argue Microsoft made much of it in the second half of the decade.

But not everyone has made the adjustment. The Bells haven't. Tech lobbyists like the Progress and Freedom Foundation haven't, talking of "property" as sacrosanct even when it leads to monopolies that frustrate change, growth, and competition.

Oracle most definitely hasn't, and this is a big problem given their control over what many still consider the crown jewels of open source -- Java and Open Office.

Oracle's ambitions were on display all week in San Francisco, along with its proprietary attitude, best summed up by the adage "what's yours is mine and what's mine is none of your business."

There is nothing "socialist" about sharing infrastructure. America's growth is based on it. From canals to railroads, from ports to freeways, from convention centers to the Internet, shared infrastructure has lowered costs for America's businesses throughout our history, and made our economy the envy of the world.

That's all open source is. When you build from a shared infrastructure you build from a higher base. You also assure yourself access to the widest possible market, since interoperability is built-in.

Oracle doesn't get this. The company seems to think it can buy open source like it did its old application ecosystem and force the rest of the open source world to pay its monopoly rents. The company also thinks a mainframe box is a cloud.

Oracle's ambition is to become a $100 billion company and it's hard to bet against them. But these lessons of open source are basic to every $100 billion tech company out there -- yes, even Apple. Open standards, interoperability, shared infrastructure -- they're what technology is about in the 2010s.

For Oracle to achieve its ambition it has to learn that hard lesson. It has to learn to share. The best news to come from Oracle this week was the appointment of former HP CEO Mark Hurd as co-president, because he has at least confronted it.

The question going forward is, will he confront Larry Ellison with it?

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