Oracle lawsuit kills off its cut-rate competitionOn Monday, spokespeople for software megalith SAP announced that SAP would shut down its software support subsidiary, TommorrowNow, which PC World called "a rising star in third-party maintenance and support for Oracle enterprise applications such as Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards." The fatal bullet: A lawsuit from Oracle that claimed TomorrowNow employees had downloaded confidential data and software from Oracle. SAP decided there wasn't enough left to save.Over 200 big corporate customers like the American Red Cross and Southern California Edison are now without an alternative to Oracle's legendarily steep support fees. At the same time, SAP announced a new fee structure that fixes support costs at 22 percent of the original purchase price, compared to TomorrowNow who simply charged half of whatever Oracle did. Oracle in turn announced a 15-20 percent increase in support fees for U.S. customers. Hey, everybody wins! If you're not familiar with IT at the big-corporation scale, enterprise software support fees are huge extra payments tacked on to any major software purchase for a large company — paying 22 percent of the original license, annually, isn't unusual. These fees in theory cover the cost of application support, patches and upgrades. Here's what's happening with Oracle: Big corporations trying to deal with a stalled economy are held in a stranglehold by application providers like Oracle, who can charge a lot for ongoing support because it's still cheaper than changing applications for 3,500+ users. A newer option for enterprise customers is SaaS — software as a service. Instead of being installed on the customer's computes, the app is maintained on a Web server owned by the vendor. SaaS supposedly lowers the customer's infrastructure cost — no servers to own or maintain — and makes it easier for them to switch brands if they're not happy. But switching apps isn't free or easy if you're the electric company. Who's going to pay for TomorrowNow's shutdown? Probably you.