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I'm starting to think that Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) Chief Executive Larry Ellison just likes to play spoiler. Earlier today, his company announced a $7.4 billion, or $9.50 per share, deal for Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA ) , ending rumors of a proposed acquisition by IBM (NYSE: IBM ) .
Sun, as we know it, ends too.
"We're thrilled to be acquired by Oracle," Sun Co-Founder and Chairman Scott McNealy said during a conference call with analysts. But his heart didn't seem in it. As enthused as Ellison sounded, McNealy sounded deflated. Beaten.
And why wouldn't he? After decades of fighting the good fight, Sun has teetered toward irrelevance, replaced by bigger and better-capitalized competitors in the server wars: Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , and IBM, notably.
Ellison, meanwhile, has good reasons to be enthusiastic, stealing Sun from IBM just as he stole Retek from SAP (NYSE: SAP ) a few years ago. Yet this deal promises a bigger windfall: Oracle expects Sun to contribute $1.5 billion in non-GAAP operating profit and $0.15 in per-share non-GAAP earnings in the first year after the deal closes.
Oracle also acquires rights to the Java language and platform and the Solaris operating system, protecting important turf that would have been at risk had Big Blue come away with the prize. More Oracle databases run on Sun's hardware with Solaris than any other platform, Ellison said during the call.
Trouble is, he didn't say much more. Platitudes followed facts in hopeful boasting about the strength of the combined company. No word of how Oracle plans to integrate a massive hardware business into its mostly software empire. (Oracle also sells a database appliance in tandem with HP.)
What we heard instead -- this time, from company President Charles Phillips -- were ideas for how the company could create "applications-to-disk" stacks of technology for solving business problems. It's a good story, and supported, Phillips said, by meetings with chief information officers who told Oracle that they wanted vendors to consolidate components into whole systems.
Seems fair. For now, though, we're forced to take this and Oracle's other conclusions at face value. Neither Oracle nor Sun allowed questions during the conference call.
Maybe that's as it should be. Ellison may love this deal, but McNealy -- rightfully, I think -- sounded sad and perhaps even a little embittered that has it come to this. Getting him off the phone quickly was the right PR move.
Or maybe it wasn't; I'm only commenting on what I heard. To me, McNealy's tone was that of a combative man who'd seen better days. (He has.) So if he is embittered, can you really blame him?
Sun has set on Silicon Valley, and the Valley is worse off for it.
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