Oracle has for a long time offered “Statements of Direction” outlining their strategy in various areas. One the statements I have been following with interest is the one that applies to Oracle Forms and Reports.
The latest version of this reassuringly says about Forms and Reports: “Oracle has no plan to desupport these products. Furthermore, new version of Oracle Forms,Oracle Reports will continue to be released as part of Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Forms 11g and Oracle Reports 11g are components of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g.”
However, the document now starts by saying that “It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.”
With this sleight of hand, Oracle has effectively retracted their commitment to the old tools. If a Statement of Direction cannot not be relied upon, what is the purpose?
While Oracle continues to officially support Forms, the installation procedure for Forms 11g makes you wonder if they are not secretly wishing that all us old Forms programmers would just go away.
If your are a developer trying to take Oracle Forms 11g for a quick spin, you know you are not going to be reading the documentation, right? You’ll just download the software and start it up, right? Not so.
This is what will happen:
- You find the Fusion Middleware 11g download page and download the “Portal, Forms, Reports and Discoverer” installation (2.1GB)
- When you start the installer, you are told that you need to both create a repository according to one document, and that you need to perform a WebLogic Server installation according to another document
- The documentation-averse developer might try to download the Repository Creation Utility, but it comes without any obvious setup.exe or documentation
Now at this point the developer has two choices:
- Read the Oracle documentation
- Move to Microsoft Visual Studio, IBM WebSphere or another developer-friendly environment
I wonder what will be the most common response from a developer…
In Europe, many people love Open Source with its connotations of sharing and village co-operatives. On the other hand, many Europeans don’t like the big, successful American companies (witness the ritual McDonalds-bashing).
This emotional preference for Open Source to big American companies is why the EU competition authorities have decided to protest against Oracle acquiring MySQL.
So what will happen? In my opinion, Larry will huff and puff, but in the end he will set up a semi-independent foundation and give it MySQL.
What will this mean? To Oracle, nothing (except perhaps a very small dent in Larry’s ego ;-). Oracle are not big on free databases anyway – they have their own free Oracle XE, but they are letting it lag five years behind the paid version. To MySQL, this represents a squandered opportunity. Larry could spend twice what Sun did and it would still be less than what he spends on a new carbon-fibre mast. Instead, MySQL will end up starved of investment and will be overtaken by various forks like Amazons RDS.
One victim of Oracle’s increased focus on their applications business is the free Oracle Express Edition (XE) database. Still shipping in version 10g release 2 from 2005, Oracle has said that a new XE version will not be out for a year or two.
I originally believed that Oracle released this version in order to achieve increased developer mindshare (“if it’s free, I might as well use an Oracle database for my application”). But while Microsoft has released MS SQL Server Express Edition in version 2005, 2005 SP1, 2005 SP2, 2005 SP3, 2008, 2008 SP1, Oracle has doggedly kept Oracle XE at 2005 level. This makes it clear that for Oracle, this product serves mainly to check a box (“Free version: Check”).
The treatment of XE does make you wonder what would happen to MySQL under Oracle’s stewardship, should the Sun aquisition go through…