Monday, April 2, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

I've been a bit busy lately. Wendy and I have a new place in Scottsdale that we've been enjoying. Actually, I've been enjoying it a little more than Wendy as there are six golf courses. I've only been able to play four of them so far but it has been an enjoyable few weeks. Now that I have internet set up and a computer here I can spend a few minutes getting back to some reality.

Oracle has, as expected, announced a number of new customers for their Linux support offering. This is no surprise and I expect that Oracle will ultimately gain a fairly large number of customers using their services. I'm not sure I would be one of them but it's simply the law of large numbers, some set of companies will sign with Oracle.

I've seen a lot of speculation in the press about why Oracle behaves the way it does with questions about their underlying motivation. It's very simple - Oracle is a proprietary software company and they want to protect their intellectual property and their customer base. Oracle will go after anything that threatens that install base. They will attempt to do so in the most efficient manner possible. This is called capitalism. There's absolutely nothing evil or wrong with this strategy. It's the same thing many of us do when we negotiate our salaries for new jobs or the price of the car we're going to buy.

The danger to Oracle in the long-term has to do with their attempt to lock-in a monetization model for their market. History is filled with companies that failed to see future movements within their industries and, ultimately, failed themselves. This strategy is borne of having something to lose. Oracle has a lot to lose and, therefore, faces more risk than smaller companies.

Start-ups, on the other hand, have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It's the new ideas that are the most threatening to large companies. I think of the start-ups as thousands of innovation engines, any one of which has the capacity and capability to re-define markets. While the risk for any individual start-up is tremendously high, the risk to all startups is rather modest. That same law of large numbers will virtually guarantee that some new company with some new idea will not only succeed but will thrive in the market.

Oracle's strategy is to avoid, alter or subsume the new ideas that arise from these start-ups before they become full-fledged threats. Long ago, Oracle and Microsoft were the up-start new kids on the block with revolutionary ideas that challenged the status-quo. Who are today's up-starts that will have our attention and respect 20 years from now?

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