Oracle Delivers Friday the 13th Bad Luck to FOSS

Despite personal beliefs, everybody treads a bit more carefully on Friday the 13th. But no amount of precaution could protect the Open Source community from the wave of bad luck that fell last Friday. Oracle finally lived up to the fears many have been afraid to speak.

The day began with the news that Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google for using code that allegedly infringes upon patents related to Java in their Android operating system. Many speculate the purpose is to cash in on some of money that Google is apparently making from the popular mobile system. They are goading Google into a nice settlement check and who could deliver larger? Oracle has always been about making money and they didn't buy Sun's Open Source assets for nothing. Not that Sun was making that much from Java, but speculation is that Oracle lawyers must have seen future patent litigation as another source of income for the behemoth. Others think Oracle is rightfully defending Java GPL requirements. This wouldn't be the first time Google has tried to sidestep some Open Source compliance with Android.

On the very same day news leaked that Oracle had shut down OpenSolaris. In another blow to Open Source, Oracle decided that Solaris should be unique and providing a freely downloadable version negates that. OpenSolaris also just might represent competition as a few struggling businesses opt for OpenSolaris instead of Solaris during these continuing financially challenging times.

Experts knew there was trouble ahead with the news of Oracle's acquisition of Sun. Monty Widenius fought against it, but Oracle gobbled Sun MySQL up with the rest. He predicted future issues and began forking MySQL before the ink was dry on the contracts. Most recently, Garrett D'Amore et al. based a new system on OpenSolaris, and said a full fork may be necessary if Oracle shutdown OpenSolaris development. It appears necessary now.

One has to wonder what may be in store for MySQL and These two major mainstays for Linux and Open Source would be sorely missed. MySQL is commercial, but Oracle could very well stop the free older version availability under the same premise as used in axing OpenSolaris. It's quite possible Oracle may very well kill MySQL as competition to the lucrative but shrinking Oracle database market. Oracle could just choose to stop funding as well, virtually signing the death warrant for a piece of software almost every Linux user requires.

No one is really surprised. Oracle has always been a proprietary company. But Oracle's actions of Friday the 13th come only days after offering up a keynote at LinuxCon. This hits after last year's promises of no major changes in Sun's open source community assets. Those hoping for a new soft and fuzzy Oracle are no doubt sorely disappointed. Experts have already stated Oracle could turn out to be more of threat to Linux and Open Source than either Microsoft or SCO ever was.


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture

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Wishful thinking -- is dead

Barry's picture

I think all you guys are sporting wishful thinking. Why is it that Oracle nuked all the older "recent" editions of, if it is "open" office then why can you no longer find a single copy of 3.2. None of the branding changes had anything to do with adding usability to the users and everything to do with showing us all whose show it is. The odf icons are a bad concept idea, but they are not listening. I absolutely hate what they have done with the usability of's icons and have sent emails and voted on the issue. They are not listening to the community. I fear that is dead.

Oracle are a bunch of arrogant freaks. To sue for money on a product developed with an open source language at a time before they became the owners. I could see the law suit if the product had been developed after they had purchased it. With this behavior I will NEVER purchase an Oracle product. They could just as well be suing to stop people from using the C++ language.

I sure hope Koffice comes up to snuff soon, as we are going to need it as a replacement for the whole left by

Linux needs to be independent

Anonymous's picture

NewKidOnTheBlock wrote: "IMHO, corporations don't deserve one bit of trust. Period."

I agree wholeheartedly. As a former OS/2 user I have seen - and experienced! - it all before. OpenSolaris can be forked, but OS/2 was proprietary. I'll never trust IBM or any other big corporation again.

Linux is progressing relatively well as an OS, but the platform needs more and better 'mainstream' native apps. Emphasis on better! No, KOffice is far from there yet.

We need to disassociate Linux efforts from everything under big corporation control - like Mono, Java, Btrfs, MySql, Flash etc. Not that we shouldn't use any of it, but our primary concern should be to try making *better* alternatives.

Wishful thinking, given the number of available coders and the state of organized cooperation, but this is what needs to happen. IMO.

Looks like good timing for KOffice

ronnoc's picture

It's been coming along nicely for the last year or so. Maybe now it will get a little more love. It was recently announced that it is suitable for daily use. It also looks better than the aging OO GTK interface. Just my 2 cents.

Oracle + Linux = $$

Anonymous's picture

The comment has been made several times that Oracle is in it to make a profit, and I'll certainly agree with that point. But there are several other points that need to be made, and they are at least partly in Oracle's defense. So grab a cup or glass of your favorite beverage, and read on:

1) If you will all recall, and has already been pointed out, Oracle has contributed a tremendous amount to Linux. It is because of the $$$ from Oracle and IBM that Linux has gone from hobby OS to serious enterprise OS. Before the screams start, I'm not implying that Oracle and IBM did all of the work - far from it! There is an army of dedicated people, to whom I am eternally grateful, that have done most of the work on all of the Open Source projects! But what Oracle and IBM did was bring Open Source, and particularly Linux, into the mainstream. They told the world about what all of the Open Source developers built! And they did so by using the products and building on top of them. This told other corporations - large and small - that Linux, for example, is not a fringe toy: it is a serious, full blown, enterprise ready OS! The Open Source movement didn't have that kind of clout. Oracle did.

2) Regarding OpenOffice: Some of you might have heard tales that Larry Ellison and Bill Gates have had a bit of a rivalry over the years... Does anybody honestly believe that Oracle would try to kill OpenOffice and let Microsoft win?? Not many things shock me in the corporate world, but that certainly would!

3) Regarding Oracle and Linux, we have acknowledged Oracle's contribution to Linux and its desire to make money. Why would Oracle want to kill a platform that makes heavy use of its database? Have any of you actually run Oracle on Linux? I have, and I can tell you it is fast, solid, dependable, and did I say FAST!? Yes, Oracle purchased Sun. But I'm pretty sure that Oracle would rather sell a Database to a Linux customer than to lose that customer. It makes no business sense for the company to stop supporting Linux! And as one who has used Oracle and PostgreSQL, I can tell you first hand that the switch from Oracle to PostgreSQL is not that difficult. If I was in a situation where, as a Linux user, Oracle was trying to tell me to buy Sun hardware/OS or give up Oracle, I would switch to PostgreSQL on general principle! But Oracle is not a stupid company! And, they have a lot of Linux users. (And for the record, I might be inclined to buy Sun hardware and Solaris anyway, because it is good stuff! Of course, as a hard core Linux user, I'm not likely to...)

4) Oracle is NOT SCO!! Oracle is a profitable software company with an excellent product (let's face it, Oracle RDBMS is the best there is)! Oracle does not need to survive by lawsuits. And as I recall, it didn't work out too well for SCO anyway...

Bottom line, and to summarize, let's not panic yet! I don't have the numbers, but was OpenSolaris really all that widely used anyway? It always seemed like more of a way to test drive Solaris, possibly an educational tool, or maybe even a sales tool, rather than a serious OS. As for Java legal battles, you may recall Sun vs. Microsoft? I won't go so far as to say we should trust Oracle to take care of all Open Source needs, but as corporations go, I would throw my hat in to the Oracle ring before I would most other of the big software companies. But trust issues aside, it would make no business sense for Oracle to kill or drop MySQL or Linux support. And I already explained OpenOffice.

To close, since I know somebody will ask: no, I don't work for Oracle, nor Sun, nor IBM. I am an independent software contractor/consultant. Yes, I develop software using Oracle, Java, Linux, and PostgreSQL, as well as various other technologies.

Thanks for reading!

No. Oracle won't kill

Alejandro Nova's picture

No. Oracle won't kill OpenOffice. What they will surely do with it is to try to apply it the same new Solaris model: we develop it like a closed-source app, release StarOffice, and ~6 months later we release OpenOffice and the code... if we want to. We maintain an edge, so we can profit, and if we can lure some OpenOffice users to buy StarOffice, it should be great, too.

What we can do is: support KOffice. It's the only thing we have left. GOffice isn't serious, and we can't even mention the Pathetic Writer (do you know why is it called that way, don't you?)

Ellison-Gates rivalry

jobuntu's picture

An old axiom I learned at a previous employer: When the personal interests of decisionmakers (like the rivalry between Ellison & MS) competes with pragmatic policies of the organizations for which the make decisions, the personal always wins.
No exceptions. If the decisionmakers were at one point close (personally, familially or professionally), then the competition will be brutal. (This plays out in politics with the Dems/GOP feeling more threatened by the Greens/TeaPartiers (respectively) than by each other. It's like a family member going rogue.) In other words, Anonymous Bill, you've given me hope that OOO will not just survive, but thrive.

In my previous post, I neglected IBM's Symphony suite. It represents potential competition for OOO & MSO. Hopefully, this will push the envelope of improvement at least as much as the personal issues.


NewKidOnTheBlock's picture

"It is because of the $$$ from Oracle and IBM that Linux has gone from hobby OS to serious enterprise OS."


That single sentence seems to be the key to the entire train of thought in your post.

I would like to respectfully disagree with it. Linux was *very* serious business on servers all around the world and the Intertubes a looooong time before either Oracle or IBM ever took notice of it. Both companies only decided to invest in Linux after F(L)OSS proved to be a worthy competitor to their products.

Then, RedHat (a corporation, yes, but a Linux-born-and-raised one), Ubuntu, Mandrake/Conectiva (Mandriva), SuSE (the *old* one, pre-Novell) and others made Linux more widely available to businesses and to the end user. No big closed-source all-proprietary companies helped that to happen - they just jumped on the bandwagon after it was already going at good speed. On the "Oracle" topic, Oracle's "dedication" to Linux is just a self-serving attempt to widen the base for its main product, the database.

(And, just for the record, I too worry about the fate of VirtualBox...)

So, although I might agree with your post in a few minor points, I would still like to emphasize what I said elsewhere in this discussion: F(L)OSS must be totally independent from corporations. In the long run, it is hard to see what good can come to F(L)OSS from such "unholy" alliances...

Oracle's Sun VirtualBox

Doug.Roberts's picture

I am now worried about the continued existence of VirtualBox, which I've been using for a couple of years now. I can't think of any reason that Oracle should want to continue to maintain it.

Nature, fortunately, abhors a vacuum

jobuntu's picture

I am speaking strictly as a naif when it comes to programming language, but it seems to me that Mozilla could take this as a hint to develop a web- and browser-based version of an open office suite.

Mozilla kindly stepped into the browser market when IE dominated with a lousy browser and, building on the Mozilla/Netscape browsers of the '90's, managed to come up with an excellent browser, forcing MS to improve IE to where we now have both ff and IE about to come out with what promises to be two amazingly good browsers.

AUracle (Gold in the name, any questions as to motivation?) seems to be planning to go the IE5 route. Hopefully, the vacuum will be filled by Mozilla or another (new?) organization.

As for the lawsuit against Google: Again, the company name, AUracle, speaks for itself. Thars gold in them thar Mountain View hills. The only settlement that Google will (if it's smart) settle for is one which will prohibit AUracle from suing Google on ANY open source issues.


"Follow the money." Deep Throat

We need a Clone Baby

ppskannan's picture

Oracle can't even think a competition for their golden baby Oracle Database which continue to give then continuous profit all the time.
Next as far as I know Oracle has zero interest in Desktop products.

So what we need is a quick FORK for MySQL and Open office. Why to leave Open office. we gave our blood to bring it to this level.So we will continue with it.

So we need a quick fork for both these products ....

Oracle does have interests in

Anonymous's picture

Oracle does have interests in desktop products. I can tell you that they will probably look to open office to be able to finally bump MS Office out of their PeopleSoft reporting stack to run nVision financial reports as well as hyperion integration.

Oracle just signed its death wish

jdudeck's picture

Can we say déjà vu (SCO) all over again?

It's a brain of besness man

Anonymous's picture

that's not surpris me too.
i know that oracle do more of that ,maybe they begin to fear of opensource power.
Allah with linux and opensources.

No religion, please.

Anonymous's picture

No religion, please.

Nah, the second it looks like

Yaro Kasear's picture

Nah, the second it looks like Oracle will ax MySQL or OpenOffice, a fork will spring up. It's happened before and it'll happen again.

A lot of what we use today that's solid and very popular has actually forked off of something that's fallen out of favor.

As for NewKidOnTheBlock's take on corporations, I remind him/her that there's companies like Red Hat, IBM, or Canonical who would deeply dent their bottom line doing anything to harm FOSS and Linux in particular. It hurts that Sun sold itself to Oracle, though. But I think this article is overstating things a bit, as Oracle is most certainly making big contributions to Linux.

Remember that btrfs is supposedly going to be the next ext3 for Linux, by which I mean, people *everywhere* are talking like btrfs is going to take ext3's place as de facto standard Linux filesystem. The company overseeing the active development of btrfs? Oracle.

Chances are OpenSolaris getting discontinued is as bad as it gets. Oracle would be foolish to eliminate MySQL, which is the most popular SQL implementation today. That'd be like killing the golden goose you purchased from a competitor. Oracle has more to gain by KEEPING MySQL instead of killing it. What Oracle's more likely to do is heavily integrate MySQL into its own database offerings, which will probably be a Good Thing.

OpenOffice is anyone's guess, but considering its popularity I doubt Oracle would ax it purely to spite FOSS especially considering Oracle still contributes heavily to the movement.

Don't IBM already have a fork

Anonymous's picture

Don't IBM already have a fork of Open Office. And then there's Neo Office on the Mac as well. And if push came to shove IBM would probably consider continuing development of both Open Office and MySQL, after all it's in their interest considering their objective of every employee switching to an open source desktop.

I told you so! But so what?

NewKidOnTheBlock's picture

Before I say anything else, let me state clearly that I love the F(L)OSS spirit, so it hurts me to criticize the movement. But, frankly, let's stop whining and do something practical.

IMHO, corporations don't deserve one bit of trust. Period. Only very naïve people could believe that Oracle wouldn't try, sooner or later, kill those Open Source competitors to their own products as soon as it could.

So, let it be yet another warning to my beloved F(L)OSS community: do your own thing. Don't count on MySQL, OpenOffice, Novell-Microsoft sponsored Gnome/Mono, etc., etc. And now it seems openSuSE has also sold its soul to the devil, with an agreement with MS to include Spotlight []. Gnash is a joke, and we still depend on Adobe's good will to supply that crappy plugin to play Flash in Linux. (And, since I'm on the subject, let's also make HTML5 with GPLed codecs (Ogg, anyone?) so good that everybody will use them instead of proprietary stuff.) Google - "don't do evil" - is appropriating F(L)OSS software into Android. And so on, and on, and on...

I am not a coder (anymore), so I cannot contribute code. But I do my best to show people how corporations trample over them, and to propose free solutions. Sadly, it seems the hardest people to convince is, sometimes, the F(L)OSS gang... Open your eyes, folks! No "proprietary" contamination! We can be - no, we *are* - better than the corporations! We don't need them! The only reason corporations are sponsoring F(L)OSS development is to follow the saying "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"! We didn't need them before, we don't need them now!

Open Solaris? Blargh... Don't like Linux? Go BSD.
MySQL? Go with the "free" version. Don't like it? Go postgreSQL. Or...
OpenOffice? AbiWord, GNUCalc, etc., etc... (Just need a little polishing.)
There's no shortage of alternatives in F(L)OSS. Just shortage of discipline and will power.

One thing is fairly certain

Doug.Roberts's picture

The minute that one of the Open Source apps currently under Oracle's control shows promise of undercutting Oracle's bottom line, you will be able to start the deathwatch countdown for that app. I would not bet on MySQL lasting another year, given its popularity and the fact that it is a direct competitor to Oracle's database product line.


One has to wonder what may be in store for MySQL and OpenOffice.

David Lane's picture

At some point, the writing is on the wall. Both, from the Oracle support perspective are likely dead.

As Monty said at LinuxCon, most of the key developers for MySQL are no longer working at Oracle and are working with him on the MariaDB. I have no insight into Open Office, but I would predict that if it doesn't fork, it will die on the vine.

A more important question, despite the presence of several Oracle folks at LinuxCon, is what is the future of Oracle on Linux? Clearly with Solaris in house, both hardware and software, there is no need for Larry to continue down the "Unbreakable" road and he could just close up the entire Open Source shop, electing to have the stack on Solaris with some side support for Windows.

Only time will tell.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack