If Oracle can buy out Open Source, why not Microsoft?

If Oracle can buy out Open Source, why not Microsoft?

Summary: There has been a lot of news lately about Oracle buying out Open Source companies.  Dana Blankenhorn has been giving extensive coverage to this topic as well as this piece from Tom Foremski, but it doesn't seem to getting the kind of outrage that I expected.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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There has been a lot of news lately about Oracle buying out Open Source companies.  Dana Blankenhorn has been giving extensive coverage to this topic as well as this piece from Tom Foremski, but it doesn't seem to getting the kind of outrage that I expected.  Oracle seems to be hell-bent on controlling the dominant Open Source database platform MySQL to make sure it stays in its place and not encroach on the Enterprise database market, but what if Microsoft started doing the same thing?

What if Microsoft went out and bought OpenOffice.org which competes with Microsoft Office or if Microsoft bought out Open-Xchange which competes with Microsoft Exchange server?  While it's arguable if OpenOffice.org or Open-Xchange has as high an impact on Microsoft as MySQL on Oracle, it is still interesting to contemplate.  But if Microsoft ever did make such a move, would the reaction be equally muted?  My guess is that it wouldn't.

Ironically, Oracle's acquisition of MySQL's database engines has some positive benefits for Microsoft as well because Microsoft SQL server is the dominant database platform on Windows.  I wouldn't put it past Ellison to only unleash MySQL's Enterprise features on the Windows platform just to give Gates and Ballmer some indigestion.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • One reason..

    M$ has it's hands full with all those lawsuits (market domination e.g.) already... They'r probably not willing to add a few more to the bulk.

    And second: The competition keeps M$ programmers, aware of the fact that there are products "out there" that are better than the M$ products they're developing ;-)
    Arnout Groen
    • Okay seriously...

      Even though I don't believe in Microsoft's tactics.. To actually say Oo is better than Office is pure fallacy..

      Sheesh, Oo is still in it's infancy. It's a up and coming product but does not have the functionality, nor the application development environment that Office has. What they just put a first version of Access counter part into it.. I highly doubt it has even close to the same functionality...

      Now ask me the same of IE.. I'll tell you it's the worst product they have. That there are way better applications out there that are more secure. :P
      ju1ce
      • Open Office

        It does do quite a few things better that MS Office 2003 does. Still the quite few things do not out do the tons of things MS Office 2003 does better.

        For example. You can build a table in Open Office better than in MS Office but making that Table look good is much more difficult in Open Office. I find I use Open Office to build the skeleton of Tables in a document then load that into word to add the text, pictures and formating.
        voska
        • Only problem OIpen office is part of Sun

          To purchase Open Office, Micorosft would have to purchase Sun. Open Office is based upon Start Office. Trying to view open source with Microsoft taint glasses, you will get confused in trying to understand open source
          azbaer
          • Buying Sun

            FYI, Sun's market value is about $15 billion....I think Microsoft could pay cash...
            samp_z
      • OpenOffice.org Has some benefits.

        Reguarding OpenOffice.org, already it has features that Microsoft Office Lacks. As Development continues and the platform improves speed and intregretion.
        nucrash
      • Try it...

        ju1ce, since you don't even know what the functionality of OOo Base, I thought I might help you out by posting the link to a trial edition:

        http://www.openoffice.org/

        If you like the trial edition, you can upgrade to the full edition by simply keeping the program installed.

        Maybe you'll like it enough to form some intelligent opinions on it instead of mere speculation.
        lhcrouch
      • So you have no idea?

        What you're saying is that you have no idea whether the OOo Database client is as good or better than Access?? "I highly doubt it has even close to the same functionality..."

        Ohh....who said OOo was BETTER than MSO? "To actually say Oo is better than Office is pure fallacy.."

        Please show me an example "Oo is still in it's infancy. It's a up and coming product but does not have the functionality, nor the application development environment that Office has."

        Big statements made with absolutely no substance...
        mdsmedia
  • Because it is silly to do so

    In most cases, the community will fork the project, as has already happened with mambo when they decided to change some stuff. A month later Joomla appeared with the people doing development moving over to Joomla as well.

    The only acquisitions that would make sense would be when there is no very large community surrounding the software and one particular company has build the software and open sourced it. But you could still run the risk that someone will fork it because they might not like what the buying company is doing to the software.

    One reason might be that you actually just want to embed the software in a product without GPL'ing it. As you're the copyright holder that is a possibility.

    Another interesting feature is that it might be very hard to actually buy openoffice.org etc. as there might be several stakeholders and some open source projects might actually resent being bought by MS :)
    tombalablomba
    • What do companies buy...

      ... when they obtain a competitor? Primarily a customer list in many cases.

      The software might be forked, but users of the original will have to be persuaded to stay with the fork. That's not much different from selling a new product.
      Anton Philidor
      • buying customer lists

        Well there are risks involved as f.i. mambo has seen, when most developers leave the community, customers might be entitled as well to leave.

        Most companies that have decided to implement open source software will have knowledge of how these communities work and will probably be less depending on the companie, but more inclined to follow the community.

        Furthermore you run the risk of customers forking as well, especially when they do not wish to do business with the buying entitie. Keep in mind that not all customers are inthere because they like open source. In some cases they are there because they were dissattisfied with proprietary software vendors.

        Indeed you will get a customer list, but that's only those customers that have decided to buy services of the company. All others can flock away pretty easily.

        In stead of buying a better solution imho would be to invest in knowledge and provide the superiour service. it's cheaper, and when trusted customers and community won't fork that easily.
        tombalablomba
        • MySQL customers

          MySQL has three types of customers:
          1. ISVs (companies needing a non-GPL license)
          2. Support (GPL OK but need support)
          3. Irrelevant (non-paying user, ok, maybe these are "potential sales")

          GPL software does not protect ISVs, it threatens them. What MySQL gives ISVs is the ability to buy a license for the ISV without forcing every customer to buy a MySQL license.

          Oracle wants a leash on those ISVs.
          Erik1234
          • Those customers who have signed contracts...

            ... cannot change immediately. And forked code has a tendency to become a new species after a while. Conversion becomes difficult.

            Also, MySQL's controllers developed a reputation as a reliable organization. Buyers who want a (fairly) reliable organization would wait for those controlling the new variant to prove themselves.

            And then there's the inertia shown by the statement This is operating well enough; why should I change?
            If the data base field is not considred quickly innovative, this can be a strong argument.

            I think Oracle will get its money's worth from the customer list. But slowly, with a low rate of return.
            Anton Philidor
      • Why do many OOo users (customers) use OOo?

        "... when they obtain a competitor? Primarily a customer list in many cases.

        The software might be forked, but users of the original will have to be persuaded to stay with the fork. That's not much different from selling a new product."

        If MS was to buy OpenOffice.org (I don't see how this would be effective btw) the users would almost definitely go with the fork because the alternative is MS.

        If MS bought OOo, because it's open source it (although it's under Sun's GPL as I understand it) it remains open source, AND copyright remains with its many developers.

        What would be the benefit to MS of owning an open source project?
        mdsmedia
  • Oracle did not and cannot "buy out Open Source"

    Oracle can and did buy a company but neither they nor Microsoft
    can "buy out" GPL'ed code. Once code is released under GPL or a
    similar license, anyone in the world can pick it up and make a
    business out of supporting it, even if the original authors /
    company decide to go proprietary or are bought out.
    LouS
    • Software isn't only code

      Oracle bought the PEOPLE and the RESOURCES used to make that code. I don't care what you open source people say, every major project in open source has a core group of people that do almost all of the work.

      Also, just because the current code is GPL'd doesn't mean future code will be.

      Arthas
      JamesNT
      • If it's based on the original GPL'd code it will be (NT)

        (NT)
        ju1ce
        • That really depends

          For example.

          I can write software and licence it under the GPL as that is my right to do so being the copyright holder. I can also decide that my next version will use an entirely different license even if it's based off my original work.

          This means my orginal work could continue with changes being added by the open source community.

          See the thing about licenses is this. The copyright holder has control. As a license holder you can only do what the license claims you can do. The copyright holder can license the software any number or ways even at the same time.

          So I can GPL a copy and License the another with a EULA. Why you'd do this is beyond me but it can be done. Point is the copyright holder can indeed take thier source and modify it then release it as under a another license. The license holder can only modify it and release if the license allows for that.
          voska
          • The other half

            [i]This means my orginal work could continue with changes being added by the open source community.[/i]

            It also means that the community could continue to add changes of their own which you couldn't incorporate.

            The key question is whether the main improvements are coming from the vendor or the community. If the latter, closing the code is a form of slow suicide.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • If anyone is using the improved product.

            Suppose Oracle spent the money to make MySQL disappear, all but the custromer list. The product continuation by the community would not have any automatic users.

            Oracle might have to spend some money assuring that customers did not drift back to the community product, but that would be money well spent if the goal is to reduce competition.

            And Oracle, unlike Microsoft, is not confident in its ability to compete.
            Anton Philidor