[Disclosure: I have no non-public information on any of the MySQL-related aspects of the Sun/Oracle transaction, nor on the current anti-trust review, and I am not speaking for anyone but myself.] My guess is that the EU will eventually conclude that it would be very difficult for Oracle to kill or cripple MySQL, even if they wanted to. I think the more interesting question is whether Oracle can turn MySQL from a useful technology into an interesting business, something that in my opinion it’s never been. What I’m worried about, though, are unintended side-effects.

It’s like this: MySQL just isn’t a very big business, by any measure. And it represents the sort of Open-Source entanglement that essentially every major technology player now has one or more of. So, my worry is: If, in a merger or acquisition, partial control over a financially-insignificant Open-Source project can now be expected to result in many months of anti-trust review, that’s going to have a massive negative effect on the viability of M&A transactions all over the technology landscape.

Now, M&A is risky and in many cases doesn’t pay off. But it’s also an essential feature of the capitalist system that makes the economy go. It’s also the way that a lot of Open-Source entrepreneurs plan on getting paid. The most grandiose dreams of the Open-Source enthusiasts (and I’m one of them) have never included holing the global M&A process below the waterline.

Ouch.

[Note: Because this topic is so sensitive, I’m probably going to reject most comments, no matter how sensible and straightforward. Sorry.]



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From: Rob (Oct 21 2009, at 17:24)

One has to be fairly ambivalent about M&As. It is where a lot of capitalist evil has occurred over the last few decades.

A small(ish/er) scale entrepreneur with a good idea getting bought out once in a while by a behemoth with the existing networks and scaled marketing to really do something with it (Acquisitions), good.

Two behemoths merging to make investment bankers and corporate lawyers rich (Mergers, and lock down intellectual property), not so much. Remember the insane AOL-Time Warner deal?

Aside from greasing the palms of the merger facilitators, the basic salmon-like instinct of big scale mergers is essentially like the attraction of monopoly capitalism: irresistible (if you own some of it). We are all salmon swimming upstream after all.

Adam Smith: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

And just for Tim, the convention groupie, Adam Smith again: "It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary."

(Sorry about that Tim, but it was a low hanging fruit impossible to resist.)

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From: Robert Young (Oct 22 2009, at 06:01)

I'll make the salmonesque attempt to swim upstream through the comment dams, to add a couple of important notes about the Adam Smith guy (the 1776 one, just to be clear).

He wrote about his fantasy of the perfect economy; he didn't write, and knew he wasn't writing, about contemporary England.

In his fantasy economy, capitalists were defined as making just enough profit to dissuade them from earning wages; in particular, profit to capital was also near subsistence.

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