Oracle doesn’t care about open source – and neither should it

Oracle is currently the focus of much contempt from the open-source community after announcing it’s suing Google for copyright and patent infringement over the latter’s Android operating system.

Oracle doesn't care about open source - and neither should it

I’m not a lawyer, and I’ll make no comment on the validity of Oracle’s claims (hopefully that should keep PC Pro’s lawyers happy). Google says these claims are baseless and that in fact Android doesn’t employ Oracle’s Java Virtual Machine (JVM) at all, but rather employs a virtual machine called Dalvik that’s claimed to be a clean-room implementation of a virtual Java machine – in other words, it’s not based on Oracle’s JVM – and which it has licensed under the Apache software licence.

The bottom line is that Oracle is a very successful commercial business that makes its money by selling software to other businesse

Pundits and conspiracy theorists have been spewing out opinions left and right, and one that’s been particularly popular is that Oracle’s lawyers have been champing at the bit since long before the acquisition of Sun (which created Java in the first place) was finalised, seeing a potential lawsuit against Google as a way to recover some of the purchase price.

The question a lot of people have been asking, though, is why Oracle would do this when it’s a move guaranteed to alienate the company from the open-source community? Questions have also been asked about the company’s lack of obvious commitment to MySQL since its acquisition – the company has lost many ex-Sun staffers who used to work on MySQL, although it’s now recruiting to those divisions. (Full disclosure: I used to be a MySQL instructor for Sun and left Oracle a couple of months after the acquisition.)

I think the answer is quite clear: Oracle simply doesn’t care about the “open-source community”. Indeed, I doubt the company thinks very much about it at all, despite employing a vice president dedicated to open-source projects within the company.

The bottom line is that Oracle is a very successful commercial business that makes its money by selling software to other businesses, and I’m sure that many of these deals are done with very high-level executives at the companies Oracle sells to (they’d have to be high up given the prices of many Oracle products). Such executives don’t care much about open source, and in fact I’m sure that many of them couldn’t even define the term – they certainly don’t have a clue who actually makes up this nebulous “community” that’s so up in arms. Oracle wants to sell you stuff and collect annual licensing fees for that stuff, and giving things away for free isn’t really its shtick.

Who’s going to blame Oracle for that attitude? Certainly not the company’s shareholders, who, I’m sure, are far happier when a salesperson sells a large Oracle RAC installation than when someone downloads the free community edition of MySQL or writes a Java program that will run on a server supplied by some other vendor. Little wonder that Larry Ellison has publicly castigated Sun’s former CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, saying that he spent too much time on his blog and not enough time focusing on Sun’s management problems. Larry has a very big yacht to maintain, and free software doesn’t pay its captain and crew’s salaries.

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