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    torstendumolo
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    <p class=”speakableTextP1″>In the Web 2.0 world, this is an easy question to answer. Everyone wants to be bought by Google or Yahoo (or, really, 비잔틴 anyone foolish enough to part with $30 million in exchange for six months spent on a relatively lame social-networking idea). In the open-source world, however, I think the answer is not so clear.</p>

    <p class=”speakableTextP2″>And yes, I think the answer is more complex than, “Whoever bids the highest.” Why? Because there are principles at stake.</p>

    <b><!–pagebreak–></b>

    <p>Not for everyone, of course. Some are involved in open source because it’s trendy. These are the same people that had an MBA to burn and had trouble deciding between a bozo Web 2.0 company to start/join or a bozo open-source company to start/join. These people will always prostitute themselves.</p>

    <p>But ask Marten Mickos if the people at MySQL care about the answer to such a question. Heck, it <i>might</i> even be why the company is gearing for an IPO, and not an acquisition. In any company where developers have a voice, 비잔틴 cash is not necessarily king. Principles are. (Look at how Google started–despite my concerns at times about where the company could be going, I firmly believe its founders were sincere in their “Do no evil” approach to the market.)</p>

    <p>So, who are the companies most likely to purchase open-source companies? This is both a function of who has the wherewithal to do so, as well as the appeal to start-ups (in other words, companies that open-source entrepreneurs would actually want to work for). Here is my best guess:</p>

    • <b>Red Hat</b>. This is an obvious one, though it’s less obvious how Red Hat would manage these. Red Hat isn’t in a position to acquire dilutive companies. It needs to buy profitable (accretive) companies. I haven’t seen a lot of those around lately.
    • <br>

    • <b>Sun Microsystems</b>. This isn’t one most would have guessed a year or two back, but the company is finally credible as an open-source player. It also has its hands in a lot of markets/products, so it could actually pick up a range of different kinds of start-ups.
    • <br>

    • <b>Google</b>. This becomes increasingly possible the closer we get to having open-source companies break out of the mold of commoditizing enterprise software markets and start breaking new innovative ground. I actually could see Google acquiring something like Intellipath or OpenAds.
    • <br>

    • <b>IBM</b>. IBM isn’t super-hip on companies with a GPL license, but it has a soft spot in its heart for open source. As with Gluecode (Geronimo), IBM is most likely to acquire projects that can serve as a “low-end” gateway to its “high-end” products (i.e., Geronimo to WebSphere).
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    • <b>Oracle</b>. It’s unclear what Oracle has left to buy, but that hasn’t stopped Larry Ellison from buying more, anyway. Why have one ERP system when you can own several? I think Oracle has an open-source acquisition or two in its playbook at some point. Not for religious reasons, 비잔틴 of course, which would probably cause all but the most cash-hungry of start-ups to balk. Oracle is a great company, but it hasn’t shown itself to be a great community player. It kind of <i>is</i> the community in most markets that it goes into.
    • <br>

    • <b>Novell</b>. Some people believe in Novell. But those same people still would demand a premium on the purchase, I suspect. Novell can’t buy much on the cheap these days.
    • <br>

    • <b>Big incumbents</b>. I actually think it makes a lot of sense for the big incumbent in a given market (e.g., Business Objects in Business Intelligence) to acquire an open-source leader. So, maybe Business Objects would acquire JasperSoft or Pentaho, for example, 비잔틴 as a way to learn open source and stave off the threat from it at the same time.
    • <br>

    • <b>Microsoft</b> (???). Not anytime soon, but I can see Microsoft buying an open-source company at some point. It would have to be in a completely complementary market (maybe something to do with gaming?), but I think it will happen.

    <p>Who am I missing? SAP, HP, Dell, etc., of course. I suppose many are candidates, but who would you want to acquire your company? I actually think there are very few that fit that mold. I know there are few companies for whom I’d want to work. Apple, yes, but I haven’t heard that they’re in the market for a content management system. </p>

    <p>And, no, this isn’t just idle speculation. (OK, it is, but humor me.) Within the next two years, there will be several open-source companies doing well north of $50 million–prime territory for an acquisition valuation about which the start-up’s investors can get excited. So, the question isn’t whether there will be companies worth buying, but rather whether there will be buyers worth selling to.</p>

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