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Mailbag: Oracle-Sun, Office Ribbon, More

Readers had mostly positive reactions to the recently announced Oracle-Sun deal, with just a few words of caution mixed in:

I think that you're right. The creative company meets the marketing giant. Could be a great match!

I have to agree with you. I didn't see it coming either, but for high-end databases requiring more robust hardware than Intel can offer, Oracle+Sun could be a winning combination to compete against IBM.

I think the Oracle acquisition of Sun makes a whole LOT of sense. Oracle's No. 1 platform is Sun; it's their core development platform for the Oracle database. Oracle's DB is heavily Java-centric; their management tools and installers are all Java. They need Java to survive unless they want to rewrite their installers, Oracle Enterprise Manager, etc. Sun now owns MySQL, a free, powerful, entry-level database. Now, THERE'S a good play for Sun/Oracle to build a migration path from MySQL to an enterprise-class DB when your needs "grow up." Databases are highly storage performance-dependent. Sun has a great storage story, excellent products in the disk and tape worlds, and excellent OEM agreements. Now Oracle has the ability to enhance revenue on both sides of the equation: leverage storage with DB engine licenses, or vice-versa. Oracle already had a "preferred" licensing model on Sun's SPARC processors that makes even more sense now. Buy Oracle on Sun and pay less than if you put in on Wintel platforms, etc. Overall, I just think it makes darn good sense.

What was IBM going to do with Sun? Migrate Solaris to PowerPC? More likely just kill it and "migrate" users to AIX. There was no strategic play in that world. Everything Sun has, IBM already has. It was just more of a "buy a competitor and shut them down" play to me than a marriage of technologies.

If Oracle acquires Sun, it creates a large-systems-plus-applications rival to IBM. It might work for a while and then die like Unisys or DEC. It moves BOTH Oracle and Sun away from their failed bids to beat Microsoft on low-end servers and high-end desktops.

The Oracle-Sun California tech culture is a far better fit than if IBM absorbs Sun. Such a combination may be the only way to keep Sun's valuable hardware innovations alive for several more years. However, a far better combination would be a Cisco acquisition of Sun. The California tech synergy would still be there but with a far better product fit for both firms.

Not sure about how Oracle will deal with the HW/OS mix. They currently are dabbling in Linux distros, though. They do share a similar Bay Area corporate culture, in a way that the Sun/IBM combo didn't.

The real question is: Is $7.4 billion too much to pay to squash a competitor (MySQL)? That open source DB has a large footprint in the Web world. I'll be downloading the latest (last?) version, just in case.

The thing I'm most concerned about is the ripple effect in the open source continuum. Ellison will no doubt kill MySQL, creating a black hole that could suck in many more open source projects.

Meanwhile, Bernie was just impressed by his foresight:

I was right! This was what I wrote to you a few weeks ago. Oracle and Sun make a complementary fit where IBM and Sun overlapped.

I got something right! Wow...

After Friday's mixed bag of responses, these readers share their defense of the Office ribbon:

After getting used to the differences, I love the ribbon. I configure it the way I want it, then double-click to hide it until I need it again.

If Apple had come up with this first, Microsoft would have been seen as copying instead of innovating on their own.

There's nothing wrong with the ribbon that a couple of hours of use won't fix. And for those that really can't stand it, you're only a few keystrokes away from an Internet search for "Office 2007 classic menu."

I didn't notice anyone mentioning why Microsoft came up with the ribbon interface. It seems that when Microsoft was asking customers what they wanted to see in the next version of Office, 80 percent of what was being asked for was already present! Microsoft realized that instead of adding more features, it had to have a better way to find what was already there. Instead of having to know where something was, clicking down menus, submenus and below, most of the features in Office 2007 are directly visible from the tab. If you aren't sure where to find something, hover your mouse over the ribbon and roll the scroll wheel to view everything with ease.

For me it works, and it seems it works for about half of the population. I have a suspicion that it works best for right-brained folks. My recommendation to everyone who has a problem with the ribbon is to stop resisting and try to adapt. It really takes less mouse clicks once you get the hang of it. And it isn't going away as Microsoft is going to use it more and more.

And finally, Qadar leaves us with a tip:

Did you know you could install Ubuntu Linux 8.10 desktop version as an application on top of XP? (I am not sure about Vista.) It shows up as a dual-boot with XP. You can also uninstall as application from XP. It is very interesting. If you haven't tried, check it out and let your readers know. People like me who do not know anything about Linux can benefit from it.

Check back on Friday for more reader letters, including your thoughts on Microsoft security. Meanwhile, share your thoughts by writing a comment below or sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 22, 2009