My Oracle Pronouncements for Java

As everyone knows from yesterday morning's news, Oracle has made an offer to buy Sun Microsystems, Sun has accepted, and the acquisition is expected to go through by the summer.

The Java blogosphere seemed pretty happy when IBM was rumored to acquire Sun. IBM has made many contributions to the Java infrastructure, embraced open source well before Sun, and, with the release of Eclipse to a independent foundation, showed more confidence in open governance than Sun. Everyone expected them to be a good steward of Java. With Oracle, the mood seems less optimistic. Of course, Oracle has made contributions such as the EclipseLink JPA implementation and the Trinidad JSF library, but they pale in comparison with IBM. And some developers are clearly weirded out by Larry Ellison...

There have been many questions and guesses what will happen to various pieces of Java and other open source technologies that Sun has. Here are my guesses. It will be interesting to come back in a year and see how many of these I called right, and where I was way off.

MySQL. There has been a lot of talk how this is surely the end of MySQL—Oracle will just let it wither on the vine or kill it outright. Well, I don't think so. Suppose someone can't use MySQL any longer. Would they say “aw shucks, then I'll just have to fork over the money for an Oracle database”? No, they'd first have a look at a MySQL fork or PostgreSQL. I think Oracle will be smart, keep MySQL as an entry level product, and use it to get consulting revenues and an upsell opportunity. MySQL actually seems a better match for Oracle than Sun because Sun never had that upsell opportunity.

Java 7. There have been grumblings that Sun is busy working on a JDK 7 without moving forward on a JSR for Java 7 because they don't want to get into a fight with IBM and Apache about TCK licensing. Will Oracle see the light, license the TCK, and then go back to using the JSR process, which despite its flaws is a lot more transparent than what is currently happening with JDK 7? I would like to see that happen, but I don't think so. Oracle just paid good money for the right to do whatever they want to do with Java, and I fear it will take some time until they understand that the best thing they can do is to let go.

Netbeans. Many people seem to think that Netbeans is a goner too. After all, Oracle has its own IDE, JDeveloper. Come on, people. Have you ever used JDeveloper??? I am sure Oracle realizes that developers have stayed away in droves, and that you can't force the unwilling to use it. If Netbeans were to die, Eclipse would be the winner, not JDeveloper. Instead, this is a golden chance for Oracle to get rid of the JDeveloper albatross and switch to Netbeans.

Glassfish. The conventional wisdom is that Oracle just paid a bundle for BEA, so they don't want Glassfish to succeed. I am not so sure. Oracle wants Java EE to succeed, and Glassfish is the reference implementation, so they can't very well ditch it. In the past, Glassfish acquired high-end features such as clustering, and I would expect that trend to stop. Still, it is in Oracle's interest that people use Glassfish and not JBoss for their entry-level Java EE projects, and I expect that it will remain a viable option.

JavaFX. I predict it won't survive. The beancounters will want to cut something, and this is the obvious candidate. It's not making money, it isn't making visible inroads against Flash or Silverlight, and in general Oracle doesn't have much interest in client-side software. I am not the only one with this brilliant insight, so if Oracle does intend to keep it going, they really need to make some announcement very, very soon. What worries me is the state of client-side Java in general. Sun has done a rather poor job with the thankless and expensive task of building a reliable Windows installer/updater. Is Oracle committed to putting more resourcees behind that effort? If not, the future for client-side Java is bleak.

OpenSolaris. Oracle has said that they want to integrate Solaris and the database products and deliver an integrated solution with hardware, OS, app server, and a database. Solaris makes a lot more sense for Oracle than for IBM. Do they want to keep it open? I am afraid it's not a high priority.

VirtualBox. Your guess is as good as mine. I really like VirtualBox, but I don't understand why Sun bought it in the first place.

OpenOffice. As an OpenOffice user, I am grateful to Sun for having it brought along this far. I hope it gets more love and attention in the future, but I see no reason why it should, except that Larry might want to spite Microsoft.