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Oracle brass coax Sun troops with tough love

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Exclusive Oracle's senior management has expressed its love for Sun Microsystems' software and hardware but warned tough decisions are coming on what people and products stay.

President Charles Phillips and chief corporate architect Edward Screven have committed to keeping Java open and to not killing MySQL. They also mocked the idea Oracle would simply shut down or close off certain technologies and talked tough on Oracle's smarts as a hardware vendor.

The pair were participating in a town-hall meeting with chief executive Jonathan Schwartz for Sun employees at the company's Menlo Park, California campus on Wednesday.

While expressing his admiration for Sun's engineering talent during the event, Phillips said that it's too early to know which staff would be getting chopped or will stay with Oracle, but that cuts are coming.

"It's early days to be talking about exactly who will fill what slot," Phillips warned. "We know there are tons of talented people here. We can't run the company without those talented people. People build some of these products - we need them. We will make the tough decisions as the right time comes along - but we do recognize we need help."

He noted there had been no decision on which members of Sun's current board will be joining Oracle if the proposed $5.6bn acquisition goes through.

Screven, a 23-year Oracle veteran who reports directly to chief executive Larry Ellison, threw out one bone, noting a large number of Oracle employees have joined through its four-year long acquisition spree. "We really look for the top talent and top products. We are completely dispassionate about were they Oracle before or not," Screven said.

The meeting came two days after Oracle announced its plan to purchase Sun. It's Oracle's second pass at Sun, following an earlier joint proposal with Hewlett-Packard - blocked by IBM - that would have seen HP get Sun's hardware and Oracle buy Sun's software.

Asked specifically about the future of OpenOffice by one Sun employee, Phillips said he couldn't comment on any product line or set but noted it's something Oracle will be examining. Sun is the largest contributor to OpenOffice.org and has made a principle of using the suite as its corporate standard for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

With an email and productivity offering of its own - and given OpenOffice lags Microsoft Office by years - the omens for OpenOffice are not good, even though - Schwartz claimed - "the point's not lost on Oracle we are adding three million users a week."

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