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BEA playing 'The Price Is Right' with Mephistopheles

Software company is pathetically pitching itself to Oracle now, which is the worst thing it could do to get the hardball player's affection, writes Matt Asay.

BEA Systems yesterday entered the final phase of capitulation to Oracle, throwing out a "but we're worth so much more than $17 per share!" counter to Oracle's offer.

Most acquiring companies would take mercy on the desperate gesture of BEA at this point, but Oracle might very well hold out.

Oracle is the sort of company to drag the companies it woos through a bit of hell and humiliation to make them good and desperate to be acquired at its price. This is very likely what will happen with BEA.

In other words, BEA's plea for more money will probably result in the opposite: an even lower offer a year from now, after BEA's public subjugation to Oracle is complete. Oracle is demanding an answer by this Sunday, but it can afford to wait much longer on the response it wants.

In the meantime, BEA will flounder, just as PeopleSoft did before it.

Oracle plays hardball. It's a company born to lead the proprietary world and to strive unsuccessfully to work with the open-source world. Why? Because you can't force your affections upon open-source communities. Open source demands trust and cooperation. Oracle does many things exceptionally well. Just not these two critical components of open source.

At this point, however, it's highly doubtful that Oracle cares very much about being popular with the open-source crowd. Until MySQL, JBoss and others give it a clear, revenue-related reason why it should care, this is unlikely to change.