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12 industry disaster scenarios

Andrew C. Oliver | Oct. 12, 2012
The end of the world may or may not be nigh, but in the tech industry, many of these possibilities could easily become reality

A few years ago this would be unthinkable, but with Apple's hardware and software now a relatively less important part of its business, and Microsoft's dismal returns in the mobile space, this looks less like a regulatory nightmare than it once did. Sure, the Europeans would complain for possibly a whole cycle while Microsoft and Apple bought a few elections, but eventually the merger would go through.

The result would be a behemoth that would breathe new life into Microsoft's consumer business and give Apple credible plays in the cloud and server market. Applesoft's hardware would still be "cool" for fanboys, and Windows 9 could have a powerful new kernel. Distributors would be nervous, but Applesoft could always spin off its laptop hardware division. For developers, this would significantly reduce our real choices and create a powerful, locked-up market.

Disaster scenario No. 7: Oracle starts charging for the JDK

Oracle could start requiring license fees for the JDK from everyone but desktop users who haven't uninstalled the Java plug-in for some reason. This would burn down half the Java server-side market, but allow Oracle to fully monetize its acquisitions and investments.

Sun tended to create markets but never really figured out how to create products people wanted to buy. When I worked for JBoss, I felt Sun was an evil bully trying to tax us; in retrospect, it wasn't half as mean as it should have been. Oracle tends to destroy markets to create products it can fully monetize. Even if you're not a Java developer, this would have a ripple effect throughout the market.

As for alternatives: Node.js is in its infancy, Python won't conquer the world, Perl is something we're unlikely to go back to, and PHP is ... PHP. Ruby is the most likely beneficiary, but Oracle could laugh its way to the bank. I actually haven't figured out why Larry hasn't decided Java should go this route yet. Some version of this scenario is actually in my company's statement of risks.

Disaster scenario No. 8: Oracle buys Red Hat

This one has been rumored for a decade. You might think that everyone at Red Hat would quit -- but who cares? Not Oracle! Did it care when the MySQL folks "forked off"?

The acquisition would certainly benefit Canonical, which despite being most people's favorite Linux distribution on the desktop, hasn't really made a splash on the corporate server. My company is one of the few multi-million-dollar operations that I know of that runs it almost exclusively.

Buying Red Hat would allow Oracle to start monetizing Linux and give it a server-side operating system that people still want; I'm not saying Solaris isn't good technically, but its market share was already in decline before the acquisition. The new Horacle (this would be the nickname internally, I promise) would have a much stronger cloud play. This would offer the consolidated stack that Oracle has long sought with its rather pathetic Unbreakable Linux play. Prices would rise. And you can bet the nature of Red Hat's contributions and investments in various open source initiatives would change.


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