It's only January but Wednesday promises to be one of the biggest dates in the 2010 technology calendar with Apple (we assume) announcing its tablet product and, as a sideshow to the main event, Oracle discussing its plans for Sun. In different ways, levels of anticipation for each of these has been febrile with the usual borderline-lunatic fascination with Steve Jobs' latest "insanely great" release and the longer, flatter thrum of interest surrounding the combination of Oracle and Sun and its various regulatory complexities.

Of course, the Apple announcement will trump the Oracle-Sun in terms of headlines and it's surely deliberate that Oracle's Larrry Ellison will make his statement of intent for Sun at the same time as his old friend Steve Jobs preaches to the converted throng. After all, Oracle is likely to have to show some of its hand in terms of job cuts (and maybe canned products) and could use some shadow cover. (Even more so in light of the recent embarrassing revelations regarding president Charles Philips.)

But don't go thinking that Sun represents just another M&A day for Oracle. This is a rare example of a software company buying a primarily hardware company and it will be fascinating to hear how Ellison plans to combat IBM, HP and others in datacentre computing. One intriguing possiblity is to create a utility offering folding hardware and software packages into one tariff, thereby mimicking some of the solutions IBM has built on its own hardware with WebSphere, Notes and other programs.

Oracle-Sun stands to make a mess of Oracle's relationships with hardware partners but the database giant has the gumption to go into the market headfirst. One possible outcome is that Oracle decides it needs a big consulting business like Accenture to become an all-round competitor to IBM. Now that really will put the cat among the pigeons...