As tends to happen with IT stories that have a political angle, the mainstream media has weighed in on the European Union statement of objections to Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems. On Nov. 12, The New York Times cobbled together a bunch of academics and other experts to either confuse or conflate the facts about open source and the IT market in general. I say it that way because it is my opinion that the academics and others often understand the issue; it's the mainstream-media journalist or his or her editor who mixes everything up.
For example, Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is quoted as saying:
It makes sense that the Europeans come to the defense of open-source companies because the big proprietary companies are nearly all American.
The exception, according to the Times, is SAP, the large German maker of business-management software.
Well, actually the big open source companies are all American, too, if you want to go down that road, although I believe software has no nationality (see this 2008 post). And I also say there is no such thing as an open source company, but if you want to believe there is, the leaders are all U.S. companies too. There is Red Hat and Zimbra Yahoo and, oh, by the way, the largest open source software company, IBM.
That's what the whole EU thing is really about. There are no big EU IT companies of any type and the EU doesn't like that. It has been trying unsuccessfully to spawn a statist IT industry and market for 50 years. As the Times accurately says:
European governments have long viewed open-source software as a potential tool of economic development and independence.
The story behind the story, according to the mainstream media, is the MySQL database product, a quasi-open source effort founded by some Finnish entrepreneurs and sold to Sun a few years ago, and in that angle, the daily press is getting it wrong because of its superficial approach. The real story is that the EU is not trying to protect MySQL, but an EU-based MySQL fork called Maria, which some of those same Finnish entrepreneurs are trying to get going as they sit on the beach in Monaco or Capri (maybe not; maybe they got paid in Sun stock). The ubiquitous Ingres CEO Roger Burkhardt gets to weigh in on the subject, too, (see this recent post about how Ingres is trying to reinvent history) as the Times positions his failed Ingres proprietary database product as open source.
And some anonymous Oracle source is trying a masterful deflection by saying MySQL is really a competitor to Microsoft SQL Server and not Oracle, thereby implying that Microsoft is the hand behind the throne of its newfound friend, EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. (See recent EU competition commission settlement with Microsoft).
On the other hand, European companies not dependent on a government to prop up, the way Maria is -- such as SAP or Software AG and a few others over the years - succeed by coming to the United States and learning how to grow.