While the Mark Hurd soap opera and Larry Ellison's parallel rants have made for interesting theater, the more-significant developments for CIOs are taking place at the cash register as IBM and SAP are pouncing on HP and Oracle customers with powerful new products and aggressive pricing bundles aimed at exploiting the management, strategic, and legal questions swirling around those two companies.
For HP and Oracle, their public statements on the status of their long-term alliance reveals a great deal about each company's receptivity to try to make things right in the aftermath of Hurd's defection from HP to Oracle and HP's subsequent lawsuit against Hurd contesting his ability to work for what has become an arch-competitor to HP.
But—and we'll get to this in a moment—regardless of how each of the combatants tries to portray the situation, both companies are vulnerable to having their very public squabbles create uncertainty among their customers, uncertainty that IBM and SAP are only too happy to exploit.
Looking to downplay the rift and keep the door to reconciliation open, HP interim CEO Cathie Lesjak said last week that while the alliance is "strained", the companies will ultimately reconcile because "at the end of the day business will prevail and we will go back to being good partners," according to an AP story.
But Ellison, whether revealing his true feelings or trying to intimidate HP, all but slammed the door on the HP-Oracle strategic alliance by saying this (emphasis mine): "Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner. By filing this vindictive lawsuit against Oracle and Mark Hurd, the HP board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees. The HP Board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace."
Now maybe that's all posturing—but if you're a CIO considering extending or expanding a large mission-critical deal based on the wide-ranging HP-Oracle partnership, are you going to roll the dice and hope that Ellison's just kidding? That it's all just talk?
Or are you going to decide that while Ellison and the HP board hash out their own self-made issues, you're going to look long and hard at the aggressive new deals that IBM and SAP are each offering?
And make no mistake: IBM and SAP are looking to capitalize mercilessly on the turmoil surrounding Hurd, his shocking ouster from HP and equally surprising re-emergence at Oracle, and HP's ensuing lawsuit against its former CEO. Here's what each company's offering: