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Global CIO: Oracle, Larry Ellison, The EU, And MySQL

Would you be shocked--shocked!--to learn that the EU's battle against Oracle is all about politics, power, and preserving jobs?
European antitrust regulators have been wielding a club over technology companies, and it's beginning to pay off handsomely for them. . . .

After decades of trying to make a dent in the computer world, Europe's technology base has been reduced to a handful of companies, including STMicroelectronics ( STM - news - people ), NXP (formerly Philips Semiconductor), Infineon and ARM, which makes low-power processors used in cellphones. And all of these players now are facing increasingly tough competition from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

There are no major computer makers left in Europe, and the highly touted advanced technology research cooperative in Grenoble, France, all but disintegrated when some of its members opted instead to join IBM's ecosystem. That naturally leaves Europe a bit skittish when it comes to successful companies making a play for its shrinking job market.

Oh dear—if that's true, then the Emperor's edict isn't really about MySQL, or about databases, or about "fairness" or competition or anything else: it's about the ability to be "wielding a club over technology companies," of which Oracle happens to be the latest in line for a thrashing.

As we've opined before on this matter, I hope Larry Ellison sticks to his guns: that he will not spin off MySQL if the EU asks him to do so, and he will not spin off MySQL if the EU tells him to do so.

As for Emperor Kroes, well, in a recent column called "Oracle Trapped By EU Politics As Sun Employees Suffer," I cited this excerpt from a New York Times article about Kroes:

By confronting Oracle, E.U. regulators risk ushering in a new era of trans-Atlantic tensions over antitrust law. Yet letting Oracle off the hook would smack of weakness after Neelie Kroes, the E.U.'s outgoing competition commissioner, spent the past weeks trying to goad some of Oracle's top executives into making concessions.

The dilemma has prompted speculation that the best outcome for Ms. Kroes would be for Oracle to drop its interest in buying Sun, relieving the regulators of the need to make a choice.

"Neither path Ms. Kroes faces is a pretty one, and yet this is the decision she might end up being remembered by," said Spyros Pappas of the law firm Pappas & Associates in Brussels. "Probably the best escape for her would be for Oracle to cancel the deal."

Faced with such nonsense, Ellison could, I recently suggested, stop doing business in Europe altogether, telling his customers there that he's sorry but the EU boffins have made it impossible for Oracle to operate in such an capitalism-unfriendly environment. In response to that suggestion, one reader said a better approach would be for Oracle to continue operating in Europe while doubling (I say quadrupling) its prices to companies based in the EU.

Ellison and his team could tell those unfortunate EU companies that it's just a cost of doing business with the EU, whose grandstanding and foot-dragging are costing Oracle upwards of $500 million. Why shouldn't the geographic region that's responsible for that expense bear the cost of paying it?

I don't imagine Emperor Kroes would win a lot of supporters from EU corporations for such a policy—in fact, I would hope that those companies would scream for her head—but such are the risks of playing on a global stage and putting things like saving face ahead of fairness and honesty.

Give 'em hell, Larry!

Recommended Reading:

Global CIO: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's Goodbye Letter To European Customers

Global CIO: Why Oracle's Larry Ellison Will Tell The EU To Pound Sand

Global CIO: Oracle Trapped By EU Politics As Sun Employees Suffer

Global CIO: Can Oracle's Larry Ellison Keep MySQL From EU Whiners?

Global CIO: An Open Letter To Oracle CEO Larry Ellison

Global CIO: Oracle Nailed By EU Protectionism As HP And IBM Raid Sun

Global CIO: In Oracle Vs. SAP, IBM Could Tip Balance

Oracle's Ellison Calls Out IBM: Why You Gotta Love The Guy

Global CIO: How 22% Fees For Your Equal 51% Operating Margins For Oracle

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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