Could the EU Block the Oracle-Sun Deal?

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Could the EU Block the Oracle-Sun Deal?

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This week the European Commission expressed its displeasure with Oracle's lack of cooperation in the antitrust probe surrounding the Sun acquisition.  According to the commission, Oracle has not produced evidence against, or a remedy for, the competition problems outlined by the commission.  The competition problems stem from the acquisition of Sun's MySQL database, the commission says. 

MySQL cofounder Michael "Monty" Widenius agrees with the commission's concerns about merging the fastest growing open-source database, MySQL, with Oracle's massive proprietary database.  Florian Mueller, a former MySQL shareholder, also supports the comission's stance.  Mueller says, "every day that passes without Oracle excluding MySQL from the deal is further evidence that Oracle just wants to get rid of its open source challenger and that the EU's investigation is needed to safeguard innovation and customer choice. This is highly critical because the entire knowledge-based economy is built on databases."

On the other side, MySQL ex-CEO Marten Mickos has come to the defense of Oracle, saying that an acquisition of Sun and MySQL would increase competition in the database market.  Mickos says in his letter, "if it becomes difficult or impossible for large companies to acquire open-source assets, then venture investments in open-source companies will slow down, harming the evolution of and innovation in open source, which would result in decreased competition."

The merger has already been approved by the US Justice Department but Oracle may not get the EU's approval for the Sun acquisition until January, which is the decision deadline.  In the meantime, Sun announced plans to lay off 3,000 employees this week and is losing $100 million a month according to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.  The two sides continue to blame the other for delaying the merger and causing Sun's subsequent woes.

Before OpenWorld 2009, MySQL's products weren't expected to receive much investment or improvement from Oracle.  Ellison surprised some by declaring he would increase investment in MySQL.  MySQL accounts for for less than 5% of Sun's total revenue so Oracle must see some serious potential in MySQL, otherwise it wouldn't be reluctant to sell them to a third-party.  MySQL and Oracle together could give other database heavyweights like IBM and Microsoft a run for their money. 

The only question is, will the EU block the acquisition?  Their intention may have only been to delay the merger for a closer look, but will they follow through with their threats if Oracle stands firm on MySQL?


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