On Jonathan Schwartz, Novell, Sun, and Mono

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I’ve gotten a couple of calls already on Jonathan Schwartz’ casual dropping of Novell as a potential acquisition target for Sun in an interview he did with the Journal.

Setting aside the probability of such an acquisition, mostly because it’s low enough to make the following exercise a waste of time, it is interesting to consider what might happen if the acquisition did go through.

First, some necessary background – the Journal comments were only one part of a multi-pronged verbal exercise designed to…well, I’m not sure. Poke IBM, obviously. Reassert Sun’s disruptive potential, maybe. Highlight Sun’s balance sheet, probably. In any event, he’s going to get people talking about Sun, no doubt about that.

Schwartz’ comments here provide some necessary context to the journal comments.

Basically, the logic he follows (as I understand it) is:

1. IBM is dependent on Novell
2. IBM can’t acquire Novell without pissing off customers and the community
3. Ergo, Sun could a.) expand its offerings, and b.) wound IBM were it to acquire Novell

I think 2’s a bit of a stretch, at least as far as the community goes (the Slashdot crowd seems much more opposed to a Sun acquisition, actually), and as for 1, well, there’s some truth to that, but the fact is we are talking (mostly) about GPL code.

But again, suppose it were true. What might the potential implications be? While the business implications might be bad, the technical ones are intriguing.

1. Novell/SuSE/Sun AMD Opteron system combos
2. Novell/Sun Linux desktop, one highly interoperable with Windows
3. Novell/Sun big-time identity play
4. Novell/Sun midmarket channel opportunities
5. Very strong Linux-desktop management play (APOC+Red Carpet + ZenWorks)

And that’s to name but a few.

But perhaps more interesting, however, would be not what they could create, but what they could take away. Along with Novell would go a degree of control over Project Mono (which we discussed in our recent library publication “Mono and the Java vs .NET Balance of Power” – subscribers only, sorry). Mono is open source and therefore can’t be put back in the box, but an acquisition could potentially disrupt the work of the Mono team. And if we’re right, and Mono’s the most significant threat Java’s faced in years, that might not be an insignificant factor in Sun’s thinking.

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