Global CIO: Is Larry Ellison Going Soft On HP And IBM?
Dropping his standard jabs and insults, Ellison's been downright sweet to HP and IBM lately. What the heck's going on here?
"The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago," he famously told the New York Times.
Now, that "idiots" remark was specifically aimed at Apple's old board and not HP's, right? Grammatically, yes; thematically, well, I'm not so sure.
Then, when the HP board sued Hurd to try to prevent him from joining Oracle, Ellison lashed out with this most unlawyerly reply: "Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. "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."
My my: "vindictive" and "utter disregard for partnership" and customers, and "making it virtually impossible" for HP and Oracle to work together—could he have been more pugnacious?
And yet, in just the past few days, Ellison has very deliberately softened his tone in his dealing with both HP and IBM. After the not-at-all-veiled threat to HP from just a couple of weeks ago, HP shared the Sunday night keynote stage to open Oracle Open World, and just moments ago here on Monday evening HP sent out a press release saying that the two companies have patched things up:
"HP and Oracle Corp. today reaffirmed their long-standing strategic partnership and the resolution of litigation regarding Mark V. Hurd's employment at Oracle," the statement said. "While the terms of the settlement are confidential, Mr. Hurd will adhere to his obligations to protect HP's confidential information while fulfilling his responsibilities at Oracle.
"The agreement also reaffirms HP and Oracle's commitment to delivering the best products and solutions to their more than 140,000 shared customers." (You can read an HP blog post on the reaffirmation here.)
The HP press release then quoted interim CEO Cathie Lesjak as saying the companies "are committed to working together to provide exceptional products and services," and quoted Ellison as saying they will "continue to build and expand a partnership that has already lasted for over 25 years."
Meanwhile, in last week's earnings call, even as he pointed out the different approaches of Oracle and IBM, Ellison seemed more interested in placating and complementing IBM than in highlighting all the ways in which his company is going to beat the snot out of IBM. From the earnings-call transcript on seekingalpha.com:
"IBM is a great company and I appreciate the kind words from Sam Palmisano about us as being their #1 competitor now and actually I mean that sincerely. I think Oracle is flattered, we have worked very hard. We look at IBM as our #1 competitor and we are thrilled that they look at us as their number one competitor . . . .
"IBM's services business seems to be the dominant part of their business and the product business is important but secondary to the services business, if you will. We look at it just reverse. We look at our products being the dominant part of our business, and one of the things we are trying to do with our products is obviate the need for services. So if we do a very good job of integrating our applications together and making them easier to install and easier to upgrade, you don't need as much servicing," Ellison says on the transcript.
"So our goal—again, if we engineer these hardware, software systems together like Exadata where the storage and the network and the servers and the operating system, the database and all those stuff is in one box, you don't need as much integration services. So we are trying to attack the—to reduce the amount of services required to take advantage of these systems."
Ellison then went on to say that he is looking to expand the level of partnership between Oracle and IBM in key verticals such as banking.
"We have actually got a very good relationship with IBM in services, which we are trying to expand, let's say in banking. IBM's got a terrific presence in banking. We have got some great banking products. IBM doesn't sell banking software and we look for IBM to become expert in using our software to transform banks."
If I were a CIO, I might find that sort of reasonable and grown-up talk to be less entertaining than Ellison giving some competitor a verbal flip-off, but I'd also find it to be a whole lot more reassuring.