Since having a quick chat with Matt about his view that Dell should buy Red Hat, I’ve been thinking about which vendors could make a play for key open source vendors such as Red Hat, Novell and Sun.

I wonder however, if it isn’t time that we open the aperture and consider suitors from growth geographies (I think that’s the P.C. term now?) such as India and China.

I don’t know much about IT companies in China other than Lenovo, but I trust that there are some large software vendors?  Or has decades of software piracy put a damper on the domestic software market?  But hey, if Dell can be a suitor, why not Lenovo?  Lenovo is seeking to expand its enterprise footprint.  Sun would be a great asset in that effort.  The deal could open up additional routes to market for Sun’s hardware and software, especially open source, in Asia.  In many ways, Sun + Lenovo could be a merger of equals.

Thinking about India, outsourcers such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS come to mind.  These outsourcers have historically been software vendor agnostic with the services that they provide.  However, as IBM can attest, there is no reason that a services vendor can’t also offer its own brand of software.  The trick is to ensure that customers continue to view the outsourcer as software vendor agnostic.  This is actually easier than it sounds.  If the software division isn’t given preferential treatment during engagements, then the division is forced to ensure that their products are competitive.  If Indian outsourcers don’t want to get into the hardware business, which is likely, at least to begin with, then Red Hat and Novell would make for better targets.  The open source products that these vendors bring along could also align strongly with the cost value proposition that these Indian outsourcers rely on.

Maybe these deals won’t happen in 2009.  But, it’s difficult to argue that companies from China & India won’t try to acquire western IT companies.  We’ve seen that Indian and Chinese companies have made acquisitions in other industries.

Dennis Byron wrote an excellent piece titled “Software Has No Nationality”.

In the post, Dennis challenges the notion that proprietary software is largely American based, and that the open source software movement has an affinity with the EU.  Dennis writes:

On the “proprietary software side,” the American hater purposely ignores the worldwide enterprise software market leading positions of EU-based SAP (SAP), Misys (MUSJF.PK), Dassault (DASTY), Sage [LSE: SGE.L] and Business Objects (BOBJ), to name just a few European software providers. And he ignores the thousands of software developers Microsoft and IBM (IBM) employ in Europe. In addition, many proprietary software providers in up-and-coming categories such as BPM (Cordys), BRE (Ilog-being acquired by IBM), EAM (Mega and Scheer), MDM (Heiler) and so forth are also “EU originated” to use the anti-American blogger’s meaningless term.

On the “open source software” side, he ignores the fact that most open source software also comes from or is primarily supported by organizations based in the U.S.

Dennis’ post got me thinking about the use of open source by emerging nations.  We all know that governments in Brazil and India, amongst others, have been promoting the use, and creation, of open source technologies by their citizens.  One reason for this shift is cost:

“If you switch to open source software, you pay less in royalties to foreign companies,” explains Sergio Amadeu, who ran Brazil’s National Institute of Information Technology in 2005.

But notice that cost is only half the equation. It’s also about where the revenue flows; does it remain in the country or does it flow to foreign countries?  Note, while the quote above is from a Brazilian leader, I’ve certainly seen similar quotes from Indian government leaders.

I’d never given much thought to the drivers of government sponsored OSS use in emerging countries. I hate to ask this, but is protectionism at play in these decisions?

It’s important for emerging nations to participate in the IT marketplace through local companies that derive revenues globally.  For this to occur, emerging market based companies need time to form and mature without having to compete against established global software vendor from day 1.  On the other hand, could this lead Western companies to reconsider investments in emerging countries?  Probably not, the opportunity is just too compelling for established vendors.  As with all things, I expect established software vendors to gain a foothold in emerging markets, and local emerging country based software vendors to grow and serve their own markets.  There is definitely room for both entities.

What do you think?  More importantly, do you know of any software vendors in emerging markets that are growing to serve their local markets with an eye on competing globally?