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Reactions Mixed over IBM's Possible Sun Acquisition

Reports on Wednesday that IBM is in talks to acquire Sun Microsystems drew mixed views as to what Big Blue would gain from absorbing the struggling supplier of servers, open source software and Java.

Sun's stock rose 79 percent on Wednesday following a Wall Street Journal report that said a deal was in the works and could come together this week (but could also fall apart). An IBM spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors.

"It doesn't make sense," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC, a Gilford, N.H. consultancy. "I don't see the logic, for hardware or software or services or IP or chip architectures -- IBM's got all of the above. If it's just about market share, IBM's been taking market share along with HP and Dell from Sun over the past five to seven years."

While IBM would gain some key assets, including the Java brand, Gardner points out that IBM and Oracle have both made much more money from Java than Sun. "I don't think there would be any real ripple affect in the Java community other than it will continue on its trajectory as open source under a variety of licenses and the community process continues whether it would be under Sun, IBM or anyone else. It shouldn't make much difference," Gardner said.

But not everyone thinks IBM acquiring Sun would be such a bad move. IBM is perhaps one of the few companies that could absorb Sun in its entirety, said RedMonk analyst Michael Cote. If IBM acquired Sun, it could potentially broaden the adoption of Java, he said.

"I would think it would more generalize the IBM developer base, rather than narrowing down the Java code base," Cote said. "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," Cohen said. "It would be combining the technology leadership of Sun and the business savvy of IBM."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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