Everyone loves to hate an archvillain. In the tech industry, it has been clear for some time now that Microsoft is no longer up to the role -- you can't have an archvillian that keeps spouting empty threats -- so auditions have opened for a successor. Could it be Apple? Antennagate and those restrictive App Store policies make its candidacy plausible. Google? Equivocation on the China issue and flirtation with deals that damage Net neutrality show promise. Facebook? Sure, but it's not exactly a tech goliath.
Then along comes Oracle. By suing Google over Android's supposed infringement on Java patents, Oracle has confirmed the worst fears of those who questioned its stewardship of Java. In one bold stroke, the company has damaged the most promising alternative to the iPhone, hastened Java's slide into legacy-hood, and thumbed its nose at the open source community -- both by enforcing Java patents and, in a flourish worthy of The Joker, deep-sixing OpenSolaris on the same day. (MySQL customers, how are you feeling right about now?)
Such evildoing rivals a monster round of Goldman Sachs bonuses. But does Oracle in the archvillain role have legs? Outside of the tech world, nobody hears much about Oracle apart from its acquisitions: PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA, Sun. Otherwise, Oracle keeps a pretty low profile for a $113 billion company.
Messing with the popular Android consumer play changes that a bit, particularly if the lawsuit drags on for years in the public eye. And there's plenty more, beginning with the Sun acquisition and subsequent brutal layoffs. That's part of a pattern: Around Silicon Valley, Oracle is known as the Bermuda Triangle of predators, devouring all sorts of companies with promising technologies and being less than gentle with their personnel. Throw in a combative CEO, exorbitant software maintenance fees, and a hardball company culture, and might we have a winner?