Global CIO: Larry Ellison And HP CEO: Courtroom Showdown Looming - InformationWeek
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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Global CIO: Larry Ellison And HP CEO: Courtroom Showdown Looming

The damages phase of the Oracle-SAP lawsuit, prominently featuring new HP CEO Apotheker, begins in a few weeks—and the sparks will be flying.

As we've all watched the apparent unraveling of the 25-year-old Oracle-Hewlett-Packard partnership, and their subsequent reconciliation that was followed rapidly by an even more dangerous squabble, a lot of questions are swirling around. I'd love to get your help in coming up with some reasonable answers—after all, as I've proven, I'm eminently capable of coming up unreasonable answers all by myself.

I believe that plowing through these questions will help shed some light on what is currently a fairly bizarre situation in which the two companies themselves seem to have much to gain by continuing to work together, but the two CEOs have some unresolved bad blood—very bad blood, in fact—from the days when HP CEO Leo Apotheker was at SAP and competed very directly against Larry Ellison and Oracle.

The exercise will also allow us to get a sense of just how big that Oracle-HP alliance is, and how big by comparison the SAP-HP alliance is, and whether SAP has a big opportunity there or not.

IBM becomes a factor as well, depending on what Oracle and HP do or don't do.

And then of course there's Microsoft, which earlier this year signed a blood oath of fealty with HP for $250 million of shared development and brotherhood that's still in place but has been a little less warm and fuzzy ever since HP decided not to be a huge supporter of Microsoft's Windows mobile strategy.

So here's an open-book, 10-question essay test:

1) It's a dead-set certainty that HP, regardless of who the CEO is today or at any point in the next five years, will drive more deeply into services. If Oracle and SAP can't resolve their current CEO-level issues, and the two companies dissolve their broad and deep relationship, can SAP deliver to HP all of the types of software that Oracle did? Answer: no way.

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That means either Microsoft plays a bigger role with databases and some related products, or HP turns to, uh, well, uh, to IBM for databases and middleware and more. Anybody think that might get a little uncomfortable?

2) HP and Oracle's partnership serves more than 100,000 customers, according to HP's website: would Oracle and/or HP really put 100,000 customers and that much revenue at risk? That depends, I guess, on the seriousness of the issue that Ellison has with Apotheker from back in Apotheker's days as a top executive at SAP. It's worth noting that Ellison raised that very same customer angle a few weeks ago when HP sued former CEO Mark Hurd to try to prevent him from joining Oracle as co-president, and here's how that went:

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