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At one with himself, Ellison ponders crushing the Linux market

A koan for Red Hat

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Those wondering how Oracle would respond to Red Hat's purchase last week of JBoss didn't have to wait long for some action. Oracle chief Larry Ellison dropped a few not so subtle bombs during a recent interview, saying he would buy a Linux maker if the companies had some real value. Given that Ellison doesn't think Red Hat or Novell worth their market cap, he may order Oracle to fire up its own version of Linux.

The Financial Times cornered Ellison at his palatial Silicon Valley spread - a point driven home again and again by the reporter clearly impressed with the Oracle CEO's largesse.

"Sitting in a sparse Japanese pavilion beside a private lake hidden among the wooded hills of northern California, the software industry's second-richest man seems fully in command of his domain," the paper tells us. "This is Larry Ellison's personal Xanadu. Designed, he says, to resemble a Japanese village with structures from different parts of the country's history, it has taken five years to plan and 10 to build."

"There's a primal connection to running water, and cut, unfinished wood," Ellison told the paper.

While impressive, Ellison's inclination towards cut wood doesn't get to the meat of the interview. That comes much, much, much later when Ellison reveals that he has considered buying a Linux maker but thought such a move a waste of time.

"I don't see how we could possibly buy Red Hat," Ellison told the paper. "I'm not going to spend $5bn, or $6bn, for something that can just be so completely wiped off the map."

The same thinking holds true for Novell, Ellison said.

So, Oracle may well build its own version of Linux in order to help it compete with Microsoft and others.

"I'd like to have a complete stack," Ellison told the paper. "We're missing an operating system. You could argue that it makes a lot of sense for us to look at distributing and supporting Linux."

Such chatter seems to be more of a territory-marking exercise than anything else.

Ellison says Oracle wanted JBoss but wasn't willing to go as far as Red Hat with its offer. Many pundits, however, think Oracle may have offered more but that JBoss preferred to go to Red Hat where its software stands a better chance of survival. Oracle may well have killed off the open source application server, preferring to push its own code.

Now Ellison might be trying to let Red Hat know just how he feels about the situation. "Step on our toes again, and we'll just enter the Linux market, buddy" seems to be the threat.

Drunken Master that he is, Ellison can use the FT as a channel for getting this message to Red Hat loud and clear. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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