Oracle needs some positive PR

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Everyone likes to be on the side of the good guys, but just checking through the news today I’m starting to wonder whether Oracle cares how they come across.  Bear with me …

There’s no doubt in my mind that smart phones are a great thing and the iPhone has lead this.  I know Blackberry is tops in the US, and I don’t know what the sales figures are over here in the UK but it seems that 6 months ago everyone had an iPhone.

The tide is turning however, although iPhones are still popular, many of the early adopters are starting to become disenchanted with the Apple approach (and not just the issues with the iPhone 4, I’m thinking of the ‘walled garden’ that is the App marketplace too).  When their carrier contracts complete and they are no longer locked in, many of these early adopters are switching to Android.  To my mind it’s not going to be too long before Android phones are everywhere.

The same – I believe – will apply to tablets, although there’s a couple of years lag behind the mobile phone market.  The iPad is the one that breaks the mould.  I can imagine many people will buy a tablet in a few years time when their web browsing and email laptop breaks.  I don’t think it’ll be an iPad though.  Android tablets will be freely available and popular by then.

So, I have an idea that in the near future the mobile and tablet markets will be dominated by Android.  What does this mean for Oracle and how they’re seen in the market?

Most people in the IT Industry have an awareness of how ‘good’ a company is.  And by this I don’t mean their technical skill or the quality of their products.  I mean how positively they are viewed by the public.  Whether they do the right thing, whether they are ethically sound, their karma, if you like.

At one end you have Microsoft, they are (or maybe ‘were’) the ‘evil empire’.  I like a lot of MS products, but this is definitely how they’re perceived in the marketplace.  The other end – the ‘overwhelmingly positive’ end – is probably empty, the nearest incumbent being the open source movement.  Apple were viewed positively, but there’s been a definite shift towards the evil end of the spectrum over the last 12 months.  Steve Jobs doesn’t have the lustre that he had 12 months ago.  Google and their “don’t be evil” is to the right of centre (although they too have committed the odd dubious move recently – Streetview, Buzz, Verizon/Net Neutrality – they’re still positive thanks to the brand goodwill from Search, Android and their free tools).

So where is Oracle?  They took a hit when they acquired PeopleSoft (a hostile takeover of a very positively viewed company is always going to leave you painted as the bad guy!).  They were probably perceived to be somewhere between MS and Apple.

But now we have the lawsuit to extract money from Google for Java.  This is a patent that Sun hadn’t enforced (maybe they were just sneakily waiting for it to become prevalent enough before making their move?) but Oracle can smell the blood in the water.  According to this post in The Register, James Gosling (the father of Java) was grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google during the Sun acquisition and “could see the Oracle lawyer’s eyes sparkle.”

“And yes, Oracle isn’t just after money, it’s after blood. In its complaint, Oracle doesn’t just demand monetary infringement damages, it’s seeking to have any code that is found to infringe upon Oracle’s copyrights “impounded and destroyed.”” (Daniel Eran Dilger – link to full article below)

They have to be careful that it’s seen as claiming what is rightfully theirs, rather than an aggressive attack on Google and the Open Source community.  That would be a dent to the Oracle image.

Even worse though, if the move negatively impacts Android then it’s going to clearly cement Oracle’s reputation as a doer of evil.

Further comment here:

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2010/08/14/how-oracle-might-kill-googles-android-and-software-patents-all-at-once/

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/howlett/is-oracle-becoming-an-evil-empire/2389

Image Credits:

Apple/Android: MediaPost

Steve Jobs/Anakin: Casey Fleeser/SomeGeekIntn

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