Rumours of a pending IBM / Sun deal raise some interesting questions. What if IBM became the steward of Java, StarOffice and MySQL? The potential for a lot of good things, I would say.
IBM has a well-established history of supporting open source (and they also do a pretty good job at making a business out of it, too!). Over the years the firm has released large amounts of their intellectual property to the developer community and have leant their not-unsubstantial support to the Eclipse Foundation and the Developerworks program.
The inclusion of Sun’s IP and expertise would give IBM a huge boost in the open source arena. Not only would the acquisition of Solaris give IBM a vital and powerful OS (and make it painless to retire AIX) but also the access to populist applications like StarOffice and MySQL would give IBM open source reach that is unchallenged in the industry.
One also has to think that IBM could do some interesting things with the combination of StarOffice and Lotus Symphony. Symphony is based on the ODF (Open Document Format) standard. Imagine a turbo-charged StarOffice backed by IBM. Think that might get Microsoft’s attention?
As for Java, the combination of Eclipse, WebSphere and the Sun Java resources would bring the potential for creating a truly united and consistent Java development path, and would give Java a much-needed shot in the arm.
While this is all still speculative — with a few arguing that the deal will run into anti-trust problems — it is fun to imagine what it might bring.