Oracle To Buy Sun, Putting Java Under New Management
You can pretty much write these stories off a template, Mad Libs style:
In a move that promises to reshape the [noun] industry, [Company A] agreed to buy [Company B] for [really large number preceded by a dollar sign]. The move will bring a variety of [products and/or services] under one roof, favorably positioning the new firm in the promising field of [industry sub-sector]. Analysts cautioned, however, that [CEO name here] faces numerous challenges in integrating the two firms, especially considering [Company B's] recent troubles.
In this case, the industry is computer software and services; Company A is Oracle Corp., based in Redwood Shores, Calif.; Company B is Sun Microsystems, located about 24 miles down U.S. 101 in Santa Clara; the large number is $7.4 billion; and the CEO is yacht-racing, quote-spouting, American Express Black Card-carrying billionaire Larry Ellison. The news arrived this morning, only weeks after IBM had backed out of an earlier plan to buy Sun.
Most of Oracle and Sun's work is invisible to "end users" at home; their software and, in Sun's case, servers help run many of the sites and services we use, but they're all behind the curtain. One of Sun's products, however, runs on the vast majority of home computers -- its Java software, used to provide interactive functions on some sites and run standalone programs for traditional computers, smartphones and other devices.
Java is important because it's what programmers call platform-independent: You can write one Java program and, in theory, have it run on any computer with a Java virtual-machine engine installed. (In practice, this "write once, run anywhere" promise can be more like "write once, debug everywhere.") In recent years, Sun has also moved to release its Java software under an open-source license, meaning that other people can read and rewrite that code as they see fit.
Sun's stewardship of Java has had problems, such as the exceptionally boneheaded auto-update routine of its Windows Java software that it only recently fixed. But will this software fare better under Oracle's supervision? That's hard to say, since Oracle's statements on the merger focus on how it plans to combine Sun's software and hardware offerings with its own enterprise-software products.
I can only hope, then, that the future of Java does not involve handing over its development to whoever's responsible for the one Oracle product I do use regularly -- a gruesomely awful Web-based expenses-reporting application that punishes users with one of the most illogical, least efficient interfaces seen outside of old versions of Lotus Notes.
If you've got your own insight on this deal, based on your experience with either Oracle or Sun, please share it in the comments.
April 20, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
Categories: The Web , The business we have chosen
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