While the US Department of Justice has already given the green light to Sun’s purchase by Oracle, the European Commission is a little more weary about possible antitrust issues. Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for competition, is especially worried about the future of Sun’s open source endeavours, specifically MySQL.
Kroes is worried about Oracle’s incentive to further develop MySQL. Oracle is the largest proprietary database software company, and Sun the leading open source database company. Kroes is worried that this deal could negatively affect consumer choice “when the world’s biggest proprietary database company proposes to take over the world’s leading open-source database company”.
“In the current economic context, all companies are looking for cost-effective (information-technology) solutions, and systems based on open-source software are increasingly emerging as viable alternatives to proprietary solutions,” Kroes explained, “The commission has to ensure that such alternatives would continue to be available.”
One of the prime reasons for concern for the EC is that the database market is a very concentrated one. Three companies, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle, control about 85% of the market. Increasing adoption of MySQL could threaten Oracle’s business, which could lead to Oracle neglecting MySQL.
The EC has launched a deep investigation into this deal, but they reiterated that it may pass EU scrutiny without problems. If the EU’s investigation does turn up problems, then remedies will have to be conjured up; MySQL could be sold off, or the companies involved would have to make binding assurances about the future of MySQL.
Oracle and Sun had no comment on the EC probe.
While the US anti-trust regulators seem to have (willfully, perhaps) overlooked the fact that Oracle was mainly buying Sun in order to kill off the main free competitor to Oracle’s own core software offerings, it looks like those in Brussels are slightly more perceptive.
Now it only remains to be seen whether they have the guts to stand up to Big American Business and block the deal or not.