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Comments by Oracle’s flamboyant chief Larry Ellison in the Financial Times about wanting to acquire or develop its own version of Linux led to suggestions that he was stirring up Red Hat, the biggest distributor of the open source operating system.

Ellison said he had considered buying Novell, the second-biggest Linux distributor, or developing its own version to add to Oracle’s software offerings. The move was seen as a shot across the bows of Red Hat, which has tripled in value over the past year and has just agreed to buy JBoss, the open source middleware company that Oracle itself had been interested in acquiring. Ellison said Oracle wants Red Hat to be successful because they provided competition to Microsoft, but added: “But they’re a small company and they’re not supporting the customers very well.”

The comments sparked a letter to the FT from Matthew Szulik, Red Hat chief executive, who wondered whether Oracle itself felt under pressure after the JBoss acquisition. He noted that Red Hat’s revenue less than Oracle’s income from interest, and added rather dashingly that his company represents “a value that is not for sale – the freedom to choose”.

Results season

Quarterly earnings were a mixed bag for some of the biggest internet companies. For eBay, there were more signs that growth at its core auction business is slowing. On the good side for eBay, growth in Skype revenues ran at 40 per cent, faster than expected.

Yahoo!’s earnings were hit by employee stock options and Apple’s by the lack of a new iPod model during its first quarter. iPod revenues declined sequentially despite being 60 per cent higher than the same period in 2005. Apple executives argued that the previous quarter had been distorted by changes to inventory and being 14 weeks long,

It was a return to the good days at Google, however, as it continued to shake off some of the gloom its previous results had generated in January. Revenue growth returned with a vengeance, including a doubling of sales in Europe, and margin growth also beat expectations.

Meanwhile Google’s Base - the service that lets you list and sell just about anything - apparently has eBay worried enough to be talking to Microsoft and Yahoo! about possible alliances, according to the Wall St Journal. With signs that Google are integrating their Base results into their normal search results (a screenshot here gives an example of a search for “ford escape” providing an option to “search vehicles” by make, model and location).

The Google Calendar API was also released this week, barely a fortnight after Google Calendar itself. Even blogging Google engineer Matt Cutts was surprised. “I love that they got it out so soon; it seems like the whole calendar launch was really tight, and I can’t wait to see what people do with an API.” So don’t just sit there, get coding.

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