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BEA's Bleak Future

BEA Systems has some innovative technology and it's an important competitor in the SOA and application server markets. Customers are much better off if it stays independent, but that doesn't look likely.

The BEA board's rejection of Oracle's $6.7-billion takeover bid
was just a temporary reprieve: BEA is just holding out for more money, hoping that other possible buyers will emerge and drive up the price. That hasn't happened, and its stock price (consistently less than the Oracle offer that the board thought too low) shows that few are willing to bet that it will. No one seems to want BEA as much as Oracle does.

Out of the other companies often mentioned as potential suitors, Hewlett-Packard looks like the least worst for customers. Though its past acquisitions have hardly been handled well, it at least has relatively little overlap with BEA. Its own SOA division, Mercury Interactive, is focused on management -- the only real hole in BEA's middleware portfolio, currently filled by an OEM agreement with AmberPoint.

A beefed-up software portfolio from HP could even increase competition, helping it rival IBM as a full-service IT provider. But all this looks like a pipe dream, as there's no evidence that HP is actually considering a bid.

IBM is an even less likely bidder. Though BEA has some unique technology in virtualization (notably LiquidVM, which can eliminate
the need for an operating system
), nearly all its other products
compete directly with IBM's. And unlike Oracle, IBM is doing just fine in the SOA market. It's helped even more by the uncertainty over
what will happen to BEA's software, as well as Oracle's clear lack of
faith in some of its own.

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