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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.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 20, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  The Web , The business we have chosen  
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Comments

As a developer I think Java will do well in Oracle, since most of Oracle's tools are written in Java. You (quite literally) can't install, use, or administer an Oracle database if you don't have Java installed.

Oracle gets control of a tool it uses throughout it's toolchain, a good OS, and lots of hardware expertise. I see a future in turnkey solutions as Oracle becomes the New 21st Century Mainframe Vendor.

Sucks for IBM.

Maybe for mysql, although the users can always fork it, since it's open source.

Posted by: wiredog | April 20, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

And, we certainly don't want to overlook Sun's historical and material support of OpenOffice.org . I do not know, but suspect that Oracle will be similarly motivated to support OpenOffice.org as a continued means to potentially undermine the Microsoft office suite.

Posted by: Arlington4 | April 20, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

News of this arrived this morning at the first day of the annual MySQL User Conference in Santa Clara, CA. Those I spoke with thought MySQL would continue as open source. Perhaps that's just hope as one fellow's company had over 4,000 servers all running open source (free) MySQL. Many folks here are blogging about it at http://planet.mysql.com. Also see thoughtful comments from the creator of MySQL, Monty Widenus, at http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2009/04/to-be-free-or-not-to-be-free.html.

Posted by: qplguy | April 20, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, the Monty link seems to have been muddled up. Try http://monty-says.blogspot.com/

Posted by: qplguy | April 20, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Whatever Sun has done for and to java, at least it was a known quantity. Developers around the world have become familiar with it.

What will Oracle do to Java? Will the Sun techs be removed from decision-making in favor of the Oracle suits?

There's a massive amount of code out there in the open source java world, will the Oracle suits respect that, or will they try to make money by tweaking it ... the suits are usually short-sighted in these kinds of things, with little or no understanding of what it is they manage.

If you're a developer, tell me you don't know what I'm talking about ...

Posted by: katavo | April 21, 2009 5:33 AM | Report abuse

Rob,

You should consult with someone who knows, or stick to subjects you are truly knowledgeable about, and Java is clearly not one of them. The Java update that did not erase old versions on PC's is the run-time environment for Windows, not the programming language. Also, debugging to port to another platform is infinitely easier than coding from scratch. When I was a CTO we wrote our applications in Java on Powerbuilder (on a Windows PC), ran production on a Sun, and then later ported to Wintel servers. Simple.

Posted by: rogernebel | April 21, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

@rogernebel: With all due respect, your comment seems to be a series of strawman arguments. In what part of the post did I say that Sun's Java software for Windows is its programming language? Likewise, where did I write that debugging is harder than coding from scratch? Please cite the text in my post that could possibly be interpreted as expressing either thought.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | April 21, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"As a developer I think Java will do well in Oracle, since most of Oracle's tools are written in Java."

Not sure how that follows...

Anyway, it's looking like a good time to start reading that Scala book I've been meaning to start.

Posted by: icoleman | April 21, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

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.") - what then did you mean by the paranthetical?

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? - what then did you mean by "Java software"?

Posted by: rogernebel | April 21, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The essential question to be asked, and if possible, answered - is "compared to what?" (with a nod to Ed Tufte and Greg Rawlings - look them up Rob). Without that question (and preferably with an answer) your claims would appear to be nothing more than hype.

Posted by: rogernebel | April 21, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

@rogernebel: Since you asked...

* "what then did you mean by the paranthetical?"

I was quoting a figure of speech--something of a joke, but with some truth behind it--that's been around for over a decade. You could look it up.

* "what then did you mean by "Java software"?"

Even without following either link in that sentence, I would have thought it obvious from context alone that I was talking about Sun's Java virtual-machine software--what other Sun Java software release would you expect to find installed on home computers? Are you seriously saying you thought I was talking about some Java IDE?

(Note to anybody somehow under the illusion that my work has any sort of enterprise IT focus: It doesn't. That's why my column runs under a "Personal Technology" header--though the fact that I write for a daily, general-interest newspaper should be sufficient evidence.)

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | April 21, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

rogernebel = pwned

Posted by: rchadha5 | April 21, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, you and I now agree that you tried to parody Sun's claim by quoting someone else's (apparent) joke, without really understanding it. How could either quote you used possibly apply to other than Enterprise software development? You appeared to be saying that Sun's comment was hype (it's not) by using someone's article about real-time embedded systems and somehow applying it (your words now) to a general PC user.

You would have been better served by stating that Oracle acquiring Sun will clearly have an impact on all aspects of Java, and stay away from business page headlines-style writing ("Oracle makes a jolting announcement that it will acquire Java-maker Sun and predicts coffee makers will be running Java soon").

Thanks for giving me some laughs today!

Posted by: rogernebel | April 21, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

One of my hopes with Oracle's acquisition of Sun is that best friends forever Jobs and Ellison might decide to port Java J2ME, or something like it, to the iPhone. The current situation, only some Java script running, is inelegant and aesthetically displeasing.

Posted by: query0 | April 21, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

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