IBM-Sun merger rumors roundup: What it means for Java

It's day two of the furious IBM-Sun merger speculation, and there's still no official word -- which in some ways says that this is less likely that it seemed yesterday, because surely rumors of this magnitude wouldn't be allowed to float around aimlessly for so long, wreaking havoc on stock prices? Nevertheless, some of the coverage of the rumor today finally began to give Java its due in this scenario; many in both the mainstream and tech press are seeing how important Java is to IBM, and why it might be central to Big Blue's motivations. Here's some of the high points:

  • The New York Times emphasizes IBM's battle against Microsoft for the hearts and minds of young computer programmers. "Java is the teaching language in most of computer science ... IBM uses Java extensively in its big software group, which trails only Microsoft in size. It has its own Java-based tools for software developers, called Eclipse, and at times it has clashed with Sun, potentially weakening the Java camp as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows software and tools. If it acquired Sun, IBM 'would unify those warring groups and make for a stronger front against Microsoft,' said Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management."

  • Redmond Developer News quotes a couple of enthusiastic analysts. RedMonk analyst Michael Cote says, "I would think it would more generalize the IBM developer base, rather than narrowing down the Java code base. Java is used for all sorts of applications whereas IBM's software is typically used for enterprise and big computational systems." Yaacov Cohen, CEO of IBM partner Mainsoft Corp., agreed. "They have pretty much standardized their whole software business on Java. It would be combining the technology leadership of Sun and the business savvy of IBM."

  • AMR research is very bullish on the prospect. "IBM is a leading provider of Java-related software and services and could use Java to drive top- and bottom-line growth. The company derives billions of dollars of revenue from Java today ... By owning and guiding Java, IBM would have a legitimate claim to being the best place to go for Java software and services, which will create a defensible advantage for the company. Unlike Sun, which lacked the channels to sell its Java expertise and software, IBM already blankets the Java market. By owning Java, it could increase its win rate in this massive market and drive billions in additional revenue and profits."

    But the research firm is cautious about the overall impact on the Java community. "While many smaller enterprise software vendors might cheer IBM taking ownership of Java, Oracle and SAP may see this as a strategic threat to their middleware and applications businesses. Java became the dominant language for new enterprise applications thanks in part to Sun's quasi-open source method of controlling Java's direction, called the Java Community Process. No doubt, IBM would be careful to preserve the appearance of Java as a vendor-neutral standard, but SAP and Oracle may not be willing to tie the future of their billion-dollar applications businesses to a language owned by IBM. Sun wasn't much of a threat to Oracle or SAP, but IBM is a different matter. SAP and Oracle could attempt to block IBM's acquisition on anti-trust grounds, or splinter the Java standard by building their own versions.

  • eWEEK Labs sees a particularly intriguing synergy between Mobile Java and Lotus Sametime.

  • Sun engineer Nirave Kadakia is positively gleeful on the subject. "To become the official steward of Java is worth a lot. You control the stake of your competitors. To have control of the technology of the middleware that your company relies on is huge ... IBM can take the most popular programming language in the world and basically define it to fit their needs ... Imagine going into a Fortune 500 company and saying - you know that investment you made based on Java technology, the one you did with Oracle or HP. We OWN that now."