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IBM

Is IBM on a Strategic Path to Control Java? 285

Posted by timothy
from the chin-scrathing-speculation dept.
nightspd writes "David Berlind of Cnet has written a series of articles over at ZDNet about IBM's return to market dominance, including this one titled When Will IBM Buy Sun? It's a VERY interesting read and a very interesting predition, and poses a question. With the mega-merger of Compaq and Hewlett-Packard going forward, can we expect other possible mega-mergers down the line in the tech arena? Is a IBM buyout of Sun possible and/or viable?"
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Is IBM on a Strategic Path to Control Java?

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  • Will IBM Buy Sun? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tower (37395) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:48AM (#3315878)
    As if the FTC/SEC/EU would let that happen... since HP and Compaq effectively decided to self-diminish, the "merger" of the two largest commercial Un*x server companies would probably raise a few eyebrows... something about a Parker Brothers' game, I believe...
  • by fooguy (237418) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:51AM (#3315906) Homepage
    You know, just because Ziff Davis became the media giant it is because of the PC doesn't mean the world revoles around PCs.

    Yes IBM does well with the Thinkpad division, and yes I'm sure there are sour grapes over OS/2, but do you think anyone is crying that they're not selling PCs at a profit of 6 cents per machine? They own Lexmark! They own Lotus! They make a fortune selling AS/400s and RS/6000s and Z/90s (if that's what they're called this week).

    There is a small tug of war over Java, no denying that, but why would IBM buy Sun other than for their customers? They are two completely different companies in mindset and direction. You think HP and Compaq will be a difficult merger?

    There are also Sun's partners to consider. Larry Ellison is not going to like it if Sun buys IBM, since Oracle ties itself so closely to Java these days, and IBM just bought Informix. I would rather see Oracle and Sun merge and split the software division.

    Interesting conjecture on the part of the author, but I think it's pretty unlikely.

  • by Schlopper (413780) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:53AM (#3315920)

    If IBM buys Sun and applies its marketing 'EXPERTISE', then we're going
    to see the demise of yet another product that 'could have been'. Think OS/2...

    As much great technology that comes out of IBM, they always screw it up when
    it comes to marketing..

  • by hij (552932) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:54AM (#3315926) Homepage
    This is pure speculation with no basis in reality. It is bad enough that zdnet rewards writers to fabricate this stuff, why should slashdot repeat it? All this does is reward zdnet by creating more hits for their advertising clients.
  • AOL/TW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d (454486) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:56AM (#3315941) Journal
    Considering how much money AOL/TW lost, and how painful the HP Compaq merger is becoming, I would think that IBM would want to stay away from mergers for a while.
  • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:58AM (#3315961)
    Gee, IBM wants to take over the computer industry... Stop the presses!

    I have news for ZDNet... It is the fiduciary duty of every publicly owned corporation to attempt to gain a monopoly in every market it enters. It is not illegal to have a monopoly, just illegal to take advantage of that monopoly to retain and extend dominance.

    It should come as a surprise to no one that IBM is attempting to wring profit out of open source. What else to you expect it to do? IBM does not exist to promote free software. It exists to make money, and if free (beer or speech) software is a way to do that, so be it.

    And no, IBM will not be buying Sun any time soon. They have plenty of money dedicated to continuing the improvement of the already quite fine pSeries/RS6k boxes. What do they need to buy Sun for, when they have a perfectly good UNIX box already? What a moron. Buying competition at an inflated price simply to put them out of business would be a silly and stupid move.

    SirWired
  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtheunknown (174416) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:06AM (#3316019)
    This is not the first time there has been talk about IBM buying Sun.

    AIX (IBM's brand of Unix) has always been the red-headed step child of Unix OSes, lagging far behind Solaris and HP/UX in market share.

    IBM has always wanted people to develop applications for AIX and usually resorts to paying ISVs huge sums of money to port their apps to AIX.

    Buying Sun just makes sense. You get rid of AIX, which isn't that popular (outside of the scientific computing arena) anyway. You can concentrate the Power architecture R&D on its use in the iSeries 400 (AS/400). You can bring the huge resources of IBM's semiconductor business to bear on making SPARC more competitive on a performance basis.

    As for IBM's control of Java, who knows? I think they have been coveting Java for quite a long time now. They would kill for an opportunity to co-opt Java to their own devices, but Sun stands in their way.

    IBM would rule the commericial Unix computing market, which is why the FTC/EU would never approve the merger.

    It's something to think about, but unlikely to happen.

    "I'm not a journalist, but I play one on TV."
  • More (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Konster (252488) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:20AM (#3316098)
    IBM has been reclaiming control of its destiny since Lou took the reigns a while back. IBM's recent profit warning notwithstanding (who isn't issuing these things right now?), they've been on a road towards success that most other companies can only dream about. They have a strong business and a strong idea of the business that they are in, and I don't currently see them jumping into their longboats to embark on a campaign of Executive Hubris that is threatening the roots of Compaq and HP at this very moment.

    Now they are facing a merger between Compaq and HP, and they could probably not be happier with the impending disaster that will arise from it. Sure, the merged company might rival theirs on paper, but such rearward looking statements does little to ensure the financial viability of such a company years down the road. And keen IBM Execs are sure to see this.

    I struggle with the article numerous ways, not the least of which is that it is buzzy and hypey and that it utterly disregards the fact that IBM is already a massively dominant force in the industry.

    Maybe the fellow is working for Sun, and hopes that some buzz and hype will inflate Sun's stock value and therefore his own.

    Like Sun's stock, I ain't buying it.
  • by Observer (91365) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:27AM (#3316141)
    To a first approximation, in the corporate world IBM owns the data center, Sun the high-end server tier, and MS-Intel the low-end server tier and the desktop. True, you can find other players, especially in the server tier and in niche areas elsewhere, but competition is already distinctly limited in these areas.

    Having common ownership holding the whip hand in more than one of these tiers will be very unpopular - as MS is finding in its attempt to infiltrate the higher-end tiers. An IBM with the ability to get synergies between the top two tiers would run into the same negative sentiments. And besides, I think that at present IBM's interests are complementary to Sun's, and the two companies understand this well enough not to use scorched-earth tactics against each other.

    Just my 2 cents from inside the corporate frontier.

  • by ScumBiker (64143) <scumbikerNO@SPAMjwenger.org> on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:30AM (#3316163) Homepage Journal
    >>"It's a lot easier to create a natural monopoly by simply selling a better product(ala Microsoft) than to create a monopoly by buying up all of your competitors."
    Sorry Sheldon, Microsoft in no way has a superior product. None of it's products are "best of breed". Furthermore, Microsoft illegally created and leverages it's monopoly. It's also continuing to try and grow into other markets by buying other companies. Never forget, Microsoft *never* invents anything, it either steals it or buys it.
  • by valdis (160799) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:55AM (#3316416)
    Will mySQL+Linux effectively handle multi-terabyte databases? Remember to also consider backup/restore issues - IBM has demonstrated the ability to back up an entire 1T Oracle database in under 60 minutes, wipe it out, and restore it from tape in under 90 minutes.

    People who say Linux is "formidable" have never looked at how truly huge IBM "big iron" boxes can be.

    Specs for a maxed-out z900:

    64G memory
    16 CPUs
    96 FICON Express channels - rated at 100Mbytes/sec and up to 7000 IO/sec *each*. And you can have 256 or so disks per channel - and there's the usual multi-path support. One of those channels is busy, the hardware will check one of the OTHER 4 or 8 paths to the disk and transfer the data that way instead.

    Scsi cable restrictions? Not here - those FICON will go 100km (want to mirror your disks in another city? No problem...)

    And if that's not enough, you can tightly couple 32 of them in a cluster.

    Full gory details are here [ibm.com]

    Full VERY gory details in PDF format are here [ibm.com]
  • by mactari (220786) <rufwork@gma i l . c om> on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:57AM (#3316435) Homepage
    From the article:
    "When asked about the desire to own Java, IBM's Director for eBusiness Standards Strategy Bob Sutor said 'I don't know about owning it, but we'd sure like to see it open sourced.'"

    I think the author's point in the article is that IBM needs to influence control over Java to gain equal footing opposite Microsoft -- the type of control that would come through a hostile takeover. The author delves into what such a fantasy takeover would entail as an extended metaphor for what kind of control [he believes] IBM could have were Java to become open sourced or a true open standard.

    The author continues with this point (open source could essentially get IBM what it'd get with a buyout) in this article, in the same series:
    http://techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/st ories/mai n/0,14179,2860394,00.html

    Very interesting!
  • by Kj0n (245572) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:59AM (#3316454)
    This reminds me of a number of problem we had with Java API's supplied by IBM (for instance the ones you can download from their website or the ones supplied with WebSphere).

    After simply including the API's on our classpath, the Java VM stopped behaving normally. Execution would suddenly jump from one class to the second(!) line of an exception handler in another class. After removing the API's things returned to normal.

    I don't know if IBM is planning to buy Sun, but they certainly have their own ideas about Java.
  • Re:come on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Derkec (463377) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:12AM (#3316576)
    IBM isn't kicking everyone's ass. Their OS's are failing and so their moving to Linux. They are fighting tooth and nail with Sun in the server market; Sun still maintains a lead there. The list goes on. IBM is a very competitive company but isn't kicking everyone's ass.

    Except for Global Services. GS has the ability to come into an organization and keep on selling IBM goods and services until the customer runs out of money :) They kick ass; they get repeat business at low cost of aquisition; they are the reason IBM is sinking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:18AM (#3316634)
    If IBM buys Sun, then expect Sun to go kaput.
    IBM has a poor record of acquiring companies.
    Look at Rolm, Lotus, etc. Every company that
    IBM buys goes belly up. It's just impossible
    for any normal company to survive within the
    massive bureaucracy of IBM. The best people
    leave within a year of the acquisition because
    they can't deal with the IBM bullshit ...
  • by JordanH (75307) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:48AM (#3316875) Homepage Journal
    I agree with what you say. I'm not really advocating these mergers. It'd be fun to watch this in the same way as it's fun to watch Godzilla and Mothra fight it out. Of course, Tokyo always gets trampled underfoot.

    I note that IBM is pretty careful about mergers, actually. The only ones I can think of are Rolm and Lexmark, but they kept the brands separate.

    There are some synergies between IBM and Apple. Apple's microprocessor architecture is controlled by IBM/Motorola. And, IBM is a big backer of Palm. I would expect that IBM would buy up Palm before allowing them to disappear. IBM is heavily invested in the Palm architecture as their mobile solution.

    I'm not sure that the proposed merger of IBM/Sun/Apple/Palm would be a monopoly. Maybe in the Enterprise space. Certainly not in the handheld or desktop space.

    Monopoly or not, the integration problems would be considerable and it would probably suppress innovation across the new divisions.

  • by wickedhobo (461297) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:51AM (#3316905)
    You definitely don't know much about economics.

    Since a monopolist is a single seller, it faces a demand curve. This curve is negative in slope. This means output directly impacts market price.
    So the monopolist creates an artificial price structure by restricting production, or forcing future sales (a la predatory licensing).

    Thus the monopolist moves to restirct output, getting to the point where *for them* mr = mc.
    For a monopolist, marginal social revenue > marginal social cost.

    There is no company that ever was, is or will be that will turn down the opportunity to gain this advantage. I know this well. I used to be an antitrust economic analyst for the bad guys (Maritime Inudstry). In the maritime industry, collusion was legal, as maritime was protected from federal antitrust regs.

    So while, on a techncical sense, "It is not illegal to have a monopoly", you are right. In reality this doesn't work.
  • by cgleba (521624) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @11:25AM (#3317168)
    "Buying competition at an inflated price simply to put them out of business would be a silly and stupid move."

    Why do you think Compaq bought Digital?

    My guess:

    1) Get Digital's customers.
    2) Squash Alpha NT that was competing with their servers.

    Other then that every great technology that Digital had has been split, re-sold watered down and eventually completely quashed.

    1) DEC NICs -- went to Intel, Intel 'phased' them out in favor of EEpro.

    2) Alpha -- Manufacture went to Samsung, design went to Compaq. Development slowed and is now officially stopped in favor of "IA-64". Uggh.

    3) DEC Networking -- went to Cabletron. . .Cabletron split itself apart (I still don't understand that one) and the DEC stuff
    pretty much disappeared in the debacle.

    The list goes on and on. Thus IBM _could_ do the same thing. Buy Sun to kill the competition, take their customers and then sell off each of their divisions thus making most of their money back and alsomaking it so that it becomes so dis-contiguous that the technologies eventually cease to exist.

    Company liquidator. I'm still so disheartened that Digital's great technology was dismantled and put in storage bins :(.
  • by caspper69 (548511) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @02:38PM (#3318753)
    Too many of you people are too young. You think that MS is and has always been the monopoly that it is. You guys all forget about the IBM monopoly that was. Desktops that cost $5000+, very expensive EVERYTHING... Then competition fixed the problem. If we go back to an IBM controlled monopoly, things will be no better. Hell, in ten years we'll all be 'covertly' using MS software to 'fight' the machine that is IBM.

    The players change, but the game? Not so much.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

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