Sunday, 5 April 2009

The big blue beast is not dead

The New York Times reports that IBM is on the point of buying Sun Microsystems for almost double the younger company's market value (the NYT reckons the price will be $7bn, the Financial Times just over $6bn). The deal has not made the headlines over here, but it could affect us more than you might think.

Sun not only invented the Java programming language, which, among other applications, enhances World Wide Web pages, but also sponsors OpenOffice, a free alternative to Microsoft's offerings for word-processing, calculation and presentation. Sun's open-source MySql is possibly the most popular database management software for Web developers.

For all its support of Linux, Java and open-source software generally in recent years, IBM has proved as ruthless as ever in protecting its mainframe interests. The danger is that some of Sun's activities will be cut back if they compete with IBM's existing offerings, or do not contribute to IBM's fight against other software providers.

The EU has proved tougher on on one would-be monopolist, Microsoft, than the authorities in the US, where anti-trust legislation was born. Already, interested parties in the States are turning first to the European Competition Commission to maintain competitiveness in the wake of this new consolidation in the information technology market.

Update 2009-4-6: the takeover talks hit a snag over the weekend. An announcement had been expected today. There is no indication as to whether this is a blip or a complete breakdown.

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