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From the SYS-CON Archives: If Sun Gets Bought, Who Gets Java?

October 6, 2004 in Java Developer's Journal

"It's not easy to see why IBM would want to buy Sun," writes Javalobby founder Rick Ross in his latest discussion of the vexed question: who, if Sun were bought, would get Java?

The discussion has been fueled both by last week's Kodak decision which has found Java to be in breach of certain copyrights held by Eastman Kodak Co., and this week's Oracle-PeopleSoft shenanigans, with a takeover of the latter by the former looking increasingly likely by the day.

 

But if not IBM, then who?

"A more likely name that often surfaces would be Japanese giant, Fujitsu, which is already Sun's largest reseller," Ross continues, then adds: "A far-fetched, but interesting and exciting, scenario could be one in which a third party would partner with Fujitsu to acquire Sun."

Ross's reasoning behind discounting IBM as a potential "white knight" for Java is as follows. He argues that IBM doesn't need Sun's portfolio of hardware products, customer and partner relationships, or even its intellectual property assets in order to be hugely successful. "Big Blue probably makes more money just from its WebSphere brand, products and related services every year than Sun has made with Java since the beginning."

Fujitsu, on the other hand, Ross sees as a plausible purchaser because Sun has already enjoyed a longstanding and incredibly high-value partnership with Fujitsu to sell hardware and services in Fujitsu's market territory. He envisages that a "friendly" acquisition might be on the cards under certain circumstances:

Fujitsu chairman Naoyuki Akikusa

"If Fujitsu feels that its profitable revenue stream is jeopardized by Sun's weakness, or if Fujitsu feels that the net value of the revenue stream it would control by owning Sun is higher than the acquisition costs, then we could see a purchase scenario evolve."

The third scenario, in which Fujistu plus one other steps into the picture and buys Sun, seems to be the one that interests Ross most. "Fujitsu could acquire the hardware and services businesses and the third party could acquire key intellectual property assets like the Java technology, patents, and trademarks," Ross hypothesizes, adding:

"If Sun is already almost attractive enough for Fujitsu to buy it anyway, then a partner who might have greater use for the Java-related business could be all it takes to make the possibility into a reality. There must be several candidates who stand to win or lose billions of dollars based on the longer term success of Java."

Ross ends with a caveat that all such speculation is really only "wild conjecture" at this point. 

"Even if the jury grants the entire billion dollars that Kodak is seeking in the patent infringement case Sun just lost, there is still a good deal of cash left in Sun's coffers," he writes. "I do not feel that any of us in the Java space should be worried about business catastrophe at Sun putting Java in any jeopardy."

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