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At what price will Oracle start sniffing around Red Hat again?

Oracle would gain much from Red Hat, but would Red Hat ever sell?

The financial markets being what they are, companies like Red Hat can nail their quarter (indeed, years of quarters) and still get pounded on Wall Street. Red Hat has been pummeled down to $15 per share.

At what point - or, rather, at what price - does Oracle give up its Quixotic Unbreakable Linux quest and simply buy the real thing?

Yes, I know that Oracle suggests that Unbreakable Linux is changing the world. I'm not buying that, nor are my customers. I've had one enterprise out of 30,000 deployments switch to Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, and that was because it's a hard-core Oracle shop. (Having said that, it's perhaps instructive to note that it hasn't bought Oracle's ECM offering or its Stellent web content management offering, but I digress.... :-)

I don't think Red Hat wants to be acquired by Oracle. In fact, I'm pretty certain about that. Red Hat, while certainly aggressive, still focuses on customer freedom. Oracle does many, many things right, but customer freedom? That's not one of them.

Would it happen? Never say never.

Consider Yahoo!. Yahoo! was almost certainly wrong to not sell to Microsoft, despite glaring differences in corporate culture and corporate ambition. The price was right, whatever Jerry Yang may have believed to the contrary.

Red Hat, of course, is not Yahoo!. For one thing, Red Hat continues to do exceptionally well, whereas Yahoo! has been fumbling about for some time.

I've got to think, however, that at a certain price, Red Hat's shareholders won't care. Oracle wants to own the entire software stack, and believes strongly that Linux should be the operating system. Oracle could do with Red Hat what many other potential acquiring companies could not: drop the price of the operating system to $0.00 and still make a ton of money on the applications and middleware running on top of it.

Red Hat is currently valued at $2.88 billion. Oracle's Larry Ellison could spend that kind of money before breakfast and not miss it by lunch. It could happen.