Oracle-Sun Merger Could Benefit Small Business

Cautious optimism were the watchwords as Oracle completed its purchase of Sun. MySQL and OpenOffice have survived, for now.

Small business has reason the cheer Oracle's acquisition of Sun, now that it appears OpenOffice.org and MySQL look to do well--perhaps better--under new ownership.

Time will tell, but market forces may make the OpenOffice.org suite important to Sun. MySQL is protected, in part, by an agreement with the European Commission.

Oracle this week took control of Sun and held a webcast to detail its plans. Most of those plans are enterprise in nature, but some impact SMB customers as well.

MySQL is a key Internet technology for many businesses and can be seen as competing with Oracle's legacy database products.

The good news is that Oracle has promised to continue to offer a free MySQL and is taking a mostly hands-off approach to the MySQL commercial products, which retain their own sales and development organizations.

Oracle has already committed to a cloud-based apps suite, dubbed Cloud Office, which is positioned to compete with Microsoft and Google. OpenOffice.org could play an important part in the project, given both its installed based and the value of its technology and brand.

Alternately, OpenOffice.org could remain what it is today, and be totally independent of Cloud Office. Oracle has not said what will happen to StarOffice, Sun's paid version of OpenOffice.org.

(If you'd like to read a good summary of the enterprise implications, CNET's Gordon Haff offers a take on them. There is also an excellent summary from Computerworld, by Eric Lai).

While no one will confuse Oracle with a company that specializes in small-business solutions, it has become a player there and is likely to increase its presence in that market.

My take: Oracle has generally gotten good marks for its plans to keep most Sun products and technologies alive and even invest more resources in many of them. Both OpenOffice.org and MySQL benefit from the Oracle take-over, mostly because Sun had become so enfeebled in recent years.

A strong, independent Sun would be a better home for MySQL, but given Sun's lack of success in popularizing OpenOffice.org, that software might do better under Oracle's stewardship. While OpenOffice.org recently celebrated its 100 millionth download, it took a decade and multiple releases to reach that milestone.

My guess is there are no more than 10 million daily OpenOffice.org users, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

MySQL is much more important than OpenOffice.org, in that it powers so many Web sites and applications. When the acquisition was announced there were immediate concerns that Oracle would kill it as a competitor to its own SQL products.

That hasn't happened, but my optimism is cautious. MySQL could yet fall victim to Oracle, but for now I am taking the company at its word and promise of good things for the open source database.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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David Coursey

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