The settling of old scores

The settling of old scores

Summary: While covering JavaOne I was talking to Sun chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps about all the recent rapprochement among the industry titans. He aptly described the trends as a settling of old scores.

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TOPICS: Oracle
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godfather.jpgWhile covering JavaOne I was talking to Sun chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps about all the recent rapprochement among the industry titans. He aptly described the trends as a settling of old scores. It's like the various mafia families in The Godfather deciding to settle old scores, but instead of bloodshed and further emnity, one company relunctantly pays the other lots of money to settle up. Today, Microsoft and IBM settled an old score that was part of the DOJ's antitrust litigation against Microsoft a decade ago.

The cost to Microsoft--a mere $775 million cash and a $75 million credit toward Microsoft software deployments. Also this week, Sun and IBM came to terms with Big Blue extending its Java license and supporting Solaris 10 on AMD and Sparc. I am still wondering what Sun gave back to IBM in the settling that score. Perhaps very favorable terms on its Java license and promise of more open sourcing of Java. In any case, Sun has now mended fences (and received billion of dollars in compensation) with Microsoft and IBM.

It would be nice to think of the rapprochement as doing what's best for customers  and shareholders, clearing the decks of nagging legal matters and cooperating on standards, interoperability and platform support. There is some of that at work among the triad of IBM, Microsoft and Sun. Certainly, Microsoft needs to extract itself from the burdensome, polarizing antitrust litigation, and sell the 21st century, kinder and friendlier version of itself. Last week, Microsoft showed off its support for RSS, complete with a Creative Commons license for nifty extensions. Sun needs to get over its whining about IBM and Microsoft, and get on with selling on the merits of its offerings and it how it plays well with other platforms.

My co-anchor David Berlind says an oddly charged equilibirum exists between IBM, Sun and Microsoft that keeps all three of them in check against each other. The new spirit of coopetition is partly driven by the collective sense that the world is becoming more transparent, especially via the Web and concerns about corporate ethics, and doing business the old way, such as strong arming the channel or locking-in customers, won't play. That said, the political undercurrents of the complex relationships are never far from the surface--Microsoft and Sun ganging up on Linux, IBM and Sun ganging up on Microsoft. Oracle's acquisition binge to take on SAP is also part of the same undercurrent for control of a major piece of the IT empire.

One source of the settling of old scores is that there is no dominant Godfather. It used to be that Bill Gates lorded over the PC industry, vanquishing IBM and Apple on the desktop and taking on the enterprise. IBM lorded over the enterprise world, with HP, Oracle, SAP, Sun and others carving out their territories. While those companies still dominate the landscape, their foothold is no longer as strong.  

No single company or CEO is going dictate the future direction of the  industry. Just look at how community development and the open source movement have impacted the IT industry. It hasn't so much shifted the balance of power, but it catalyzes a shift away from proprietary to open platforms. At least two of the triad have adopted the open source mantra, and even Microsoft is beginning to show some open source skin. Open source has been known to save enterprises lots of money, so why resist? 

The major vendors recognize that their customers don't want to get caught in cross fire as they bloody each other fighting over market share with loutish behavior. At the same time, one or more of the companies will make a bold move to raise the stakes, sending them all to the mattresses again... 

Topic: Oracle

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  • I'd like to see Sun make a profit...

    ... before the company is considered a lasting part of a triad.

    This is a period in which companies can be acquired or fail. And I still can't see what Sun has to sell (aside from IP) that will be assured of success.
    Anton Philidor
    • Sun's only possible future...

      Is to out open source, open source....

      Look, I am not about to say I am some Unix Guru, I know my way around the basics, I can set up a server, I can install apps. (if they behave properly), etc., but I don't live and breath it like some do. All the people I know that do live and breath it tell me Solaris is "the best Unix" out there. Hands down, the "best". These are people that I respect a great deal and I accept their evaluation of Solaris at face value.

      Due to the license indemnification Sun offers it is now (or soon will be) possible to run an open source OS that has real protection, allows for proprietary uses (unlike the limitations in the GPL) and is being supported in a HUGE way by Sun.

      All these pluses, and being "best Unix", should make it a very serious open source contender. Sun was a big contender against IBM during the dot com days, but they failed to grasp what it meant to give away an operating system on their hardware, much to the benefit of IBM who was giving away Linux. (Giving away being a freely used term.) If Sun can even the OS/price/support equation against IBM, we could have a new ball game again.

      What Sun really needs is for Solaris to become the third OS to run Microsoft Office. Obviously Microsoft would need to build extensions to handle their API calls, but making it happen is not a technical hurdle, it's a business decision. After all, it's running on BSD right now.

      If Microsoft (who uses the same license for open source Sun does.) wants to pick aside against the GPL, this is the perfect place to do it. I believe it would be a serious blow to Linux and the GPL in general. Possibly even forcing the Linux community to reconsider the GPL. I guess that is in process right now and some claim the GPL isn't even needed. (I have no opinion on that.)

      Who'da thunk MS and Sun would end up needing each other like this???
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • Business decsions

        Is Sun going to obtain substantial revenues from Solaris?

        Compare Microsoft with Windows, even Apple with OSX. Each upgrade of OSX costs more than $100. I wonder if the move to Intel will cause more upgrades. Both Microsoft and Apple are showing how to make money with an operating system, and that startegy doesn't include open sourcing.

        Microsoft is watching Unix self-destruct, with Linux as the primary killer. Even Sun has benn reluctantly forced to include Linux. As IBM has shown, Linux can be used to get through the door, and is sometimes even sufficient. But it's IBM Linux, and when it's insufficient, IBM has more expensive software waiting.

        If Microsoft can offer more than Linux to companies that are willing to pay significant amounts, particularly for servers, then they can collect on the disintegration of the Unix market.

        Why should Microsoft encourage Solaris?
        It's not Windows. If Solaris is there, Microsoft can cooperate with it. But what they really want is to get conversions from the Unix camp. If Linux kills Solaris, Microsoft can expect to have an easier time competing.

        So Microsoft favors Sun when the competition is against IBM in the Unix realm, but they're not going to do anything to help Solaris compete against Windows.
        Anton Philidor
        • Reconsider...

          Sun is a hardware company, always has been. Selling the OS was just frosting on the cake. Since IBM started giving awya an OS, they have been taking Sun to the cleaners in hardware sales.

          Now if Sun levels that playing field it's no longer a selling advantage for IBM. Sun can still offer an upgraded version of Solaris (with all the bells and whistles that are proprietary).

          Also consider that Microsoft really, really wants to play in the enterprize market (big iron) and this may well be a way to get the foot in the door.

          Also consider that MS already makes Office for Unix (BSD on Apple) so the port should be a very easy one. Given the anti-trust flak MS gets constantly, having Office available for three OSs would certainly have legal advantages. Also keep in mind they have already agreed with Sun to make Office more compatible (or maybe the other way around) with StarOffice. (Not OpenOffice)

          Heck, MS could even start bragging about how it is supporting open source, just not the GPL...
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • What?

            "Also consider that MS already makes Office for Unix (BSD on
            Apple) so the port should be a very easy one."

            MS makes a version of Office for Mac OS X, how you believe this
            helps in a version for X11 god only knows. They have completely
            different APIs, and any port between the two could not be
            described "a very easy one".

            However MS does claim to spend $7.7 billion a year on R&D.
            Only a small number of these resources would be required to
            produce a X11 version.

            Somehow given the MS position to defend it abusive monopoly
            at all costs I don't see this happening.
            Richard Flude
          • You miss my point...

            The point being is MS already understand what need to be done to port to a Unix envioronment, no need to re-invent the wheel.

            As far as why they would do it, see my above posts. (Kill the GPL)
            No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Again with the open source

    From the story"No single company or CEO is going to dictate the future direction of the industry. Just look at how community development and the open source movement have impacted the IT industry".

    Well lets look at yesterday's article on Eclipse. An open source IDE that gently conspires to address the needs of networks by offering a kindler, gentler server.

    Because I choose one IDE over another doesn't force a server purchase that "works better" with my IDE. Just how open source is a system that prefers one IDE over another? Well you answered that yourself.

    Open sourcing is no more than monolithic computer engineering by business partners. Here we are and there are only three operating systems that are mentioned. There are only two desktops. How much did Sun waste on their Star Office and JDS in China? Just how tight has the web got to spin before open source is seen as "windows" dressing?

    Anyway, I diverge, or is it divest? I wish I could. I think the picture is clearer when you look at the AMD/Intel suit.

    As for Sun selling Linux or RH or whatever license de jour. Non-sense. Sun re-branding a storage server is a joke too. Sun should have realistically taken advantage of their java. Instead of licensing it, the fools could have written programs to sell. It's not been open sourced yet it is used on upteen billions of handsets. I will guess, possibly wrong, that Sun's licensing fee is to use their logo (compatibility) et al, not that they gain from writing the program for a mix of cell phones. Imagine if Sun thought of that and started writing the Maddens and F&F collections. We wouldn't be having this conversation. Look at how Gates took his Office Suite. It made his OS ubiquitous. When Mary in the accounting dept is told she can't use Word anymore she will file a discrimination suit that will make the help desk stand on its head. No, Sun didn't err in not open sourcing Solaris. Who are you kidding? There are enough brains in college working on grants to write OS's till the Sun goes down. Sun didn't capitalize on what they had. Whether that was Gates fault or not, who cares? They tried to create a virtual system, succeeded but failed at selling it to enrich themselves. Why would anyone get involved with Netscape once IE took the market? Absurd.

    see: AT&T et al. This is nothing new.
    Roving_Reporter
    • Agreed, but...

      I agree with most of your points, but the situation is probably worse than you have put it.

      [I]"Look at how Gates took his Office Suite. It made his OS ubiquitous"[/I]

      Yes microsoft could do it, but I doubt Sun could ever. Sun is pathetic in GUI department. AWT is probably the lousiest GUI I have ever seen and Swing is so bloated and complex. Heck just look at Solaris and you can see what I mean. Microsoft, Apple offer much better GUI (not perfect though) than any other vendor (including IBM). Not only that, Sun just doesn't know what to do with java except that keep making it bigger and slower with every release. In fact whatever good has come into java lately is from Apache and other independent Framework authors (Struts, Spring, SWT....). I am just plain disappointed with Sun and hope for a completely new Open Source Java. Let the language be open, and have vendors compete for the best java Virtual Machine...
      low-life