OpenSolaris scrapped: Will Oracle pay a price for being SCOracle?

After pretending to kindness for many months, Larry Ellison has stepped up to be the number one villain of open source.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Since Bill Gates left Microsoft to become Andrew Carnegie, open source has lacked a convenient villain against which to contend.

After pretending to kindness for many months, Larry Ellison has stepped up to be that villain. (I'm certain this costume would fit him nicely, just $799.95 from Buycostumes.com.)

The Google suit and abandonment of OpenSolaris led programmer-blogger Joe Cheng to come up with a handy one-word curse for Ellison's Oracle -- SCOracle. (Tim Bray's tweet, unfortunately, is not work safe as Cheng's is.)

For many analysts, that's plenty of ammunition to condemn Oracle for all time.

For Bruce Perens, however, it's not. He's not just an open source advocate, of course, he's a law professor.he is an authority on open source. (My apologies for again calling him a legal professor.) And Prof. Perens says Google violated its Sun patent grant by not including AWT or Swing. SiliconANGLE agrees Oracle may have a case. (But if the invention isn't tied to a specific machine, Groklaw notes, the patent may be tossed.

Joel West adds that even if Google re-engineered Java in a clean room, the patent argument is compelling, and Java was never more than "semi-open."

There is no such ambiguity in the closing of Solaris. Oracle is closing the software off to open source developers, and will only release open source code in the future after a commercial release. Contributor Steven Scallion called that "a perversion of the open source process."

The question to ask is, will open source sensibilities force Oracle to pay a high price for its embrace of the dark side?

Microsoft has already tried to capitalize with a mySQL to SQL Server migration tool, but that brings up an important point about Oracle, one that will make taking a pound of open source flesh from it problematic.

Oracle is not in the consumer market. It's not even in the small business market. Oracle is, and always has been, an enterprise company. It deals with customers who know they have to pay for what they get, negotiate and sign contracts they will follow, and who can afford legal bills with several zeroes in them.

The fact that Java is part of many consumer products, or that OpenOffice is a consumer product, or that mySQL was designed with small businesses in mind is incidental. These are markets Oracle has never showed an inclination toward serving before, and having these markets angry with them is no big deal.

The question open source advocates must ask is, can it be made into a big deal? Maybe even a big Biden deal? How? We can't expect help from the law or the government. It's a market question.


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