I've always had trouble with the word "free". Because the people who bandy it around are typically in marketing and sales (or consulting ;). And they wouldn't be in a job if they actually sold stuff for "free".
Recently PsyBlog had a well articulated blog entry describing this sales-speak: FREE! But at What Price?
This is why the marketing for Apex and JDeveloper as "free" doesn't sit well with me, and neither the zeal behind the Apex and JDev camps with the argument "but it's free!". To me free means 100% free. No conditions attached. Forever. Covers all cases for you and me and everyone else. There shouldn't be a "yeah-but" situation with free.
As such Apex strictly isn't free because the majority of users are running it on a purchased licensed Oracle database edition. Of course it's "free" if you use it on Oracle XE, but I've yet to find a single customer with a substantial Oracle install willing to downgrade to the Oracle-lite version. I'm not saying there aren't Oracle XE sites out there, but (from my subjective experience) in the scheme of things most Oracle customers aren't using Oracle XE for production purposes. The Oracle salesman already got'em.
In turn JDeveloper isn't strictly "free" either. Arguably the IDE is, but JDeveloper is coupled with ADF (not free), WebCenter (not free) and SOA (not free). If we specifically look at ADF it is "free" as long as you own an OAS license or pay a per user seat license.
A question arises though, why did Oracle bother to make these tools "free", or more specifically the marketing exercise of "free"?:
Arguably for JDeveloper it was the other competing Java IDEs, namely Eclipse and NetBeans are free, so Oracle needed to compete on the same playing field to entice those sarcastic and critical Java crowd. For Apex the reason is not so clear to me as I don't work in the Apex circles and maybe a reader can put their opinion forward. If Apex only runs on Oracle, why bother with the "free" marketing unless it's just a feel-good? Why not just say SQL and PL/SQL are also free with the database? Why did they pick Apex? To compete with JDev? I dunno.
So the next question arises, how could Oracle go about making these tools really "free" (be it a realistic dream or not)?:
For JDeveloper it's obvious. If you couple a component such as ADF with the IDE, then remove any of the OAS license caveats. Otherwise if you're going to include another part in the base download, either make it free or strip it out as a clear downloadable plug-in.
For Apex, if I use an Oracle non-XE edition (eg. SE, EE etc), and I use no features but those available to Oracle XE, and Apex, then make it free across the board, database included, regardless of edition.
Idle Friday musings?: yes.
Give you a good chuckle?: I hope so.
Oh, and I'm still waiting on Oracle to apply the same "free" marketing to Oracle Forms, be it "free" as long as you install to OAS ;)
BTW, take time to check out other articles on PsyBlog. My recent favourite: How Children Learn the Earth Isn't Flat.