Java Licensing Called into Question
Another bone of contention has come to the fore, however. Reuters reported over
the weekend that something rather unexpected-Java licensing-had been at the
heart of the June 26 holdup.
An Oracle attorney told the news agency that the two sides were "almost able to resolve everything" ahead of the agency's decision to extend its investigation.
Java licensing is tricky to untangle, because up until November 2006, Java was a proprietary programming language owned in its entirety by Sun and licensed accordingly. From 1995 to 2006, Sun charged for licensing for use of Java code and for affiliated services; now it gives away the code free of charge under a choice of open-source licenses, but still charges for implementation, ongoing maintenance and other services.
Potentially, this could be sensitive for Oracle, because the most important intellectual property owned by Sun is the Java franchise.
More than 90 percent of the world's cell phones and connected portable devices use Java networking software to run on Web-based networks, and a growing percentage of the world's "smart cards"-an estimated 40 percent, according to IT research companies-use embedded Java chips to store personal, health and business information that can be accessed by card readers.
Java works as well in handheld devices as it does in king-size enterprise servers and storage arrays. So its influence on worldwide software development is huge.
It is possible that the DOJ sees Java as having some antitrust issues. A spokesperson for the DOJ refused comment on this topic June 29, citing the ongoing investigation.
Oracle already has much invested in Java
At the time the merger was announced back in April, Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison noted that "all of our middleware is based 100 percent on Java" and said his company has "invested more than anybody else in Java technology in terms of dollars over the years, and we intend to invest-and accelerate our investments-going forward."
Will the DOJ call a halt to this acquisition? Not likely, according to a group of IT insiders contacted by eWEEK.
"If MySQL is the main problem, Oracle can deal with that," said one analyst who asked not to be identified. "Java would be stickier, but I don't think there's a real problem with that at all. Sun's Java and Oracle's databases fit hand-in-glove-they don't compete.
"I just think the DOJ is being very careful, especially with a new, much-more-aware President in the White House."