Oracle has its foot on the gas pedal, pushing the company faster than ever. But to what destination?
It is only mildly far-fetched to think that shortly after Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff used Twitter to demolish Larry Ellison's opening keynote at Oracle Open World in early October, Ellison not only displaced Benioff's paid keynote slot, but also placed a call to Greg Gianforte, the CEO of RightNow and began negotiations to acquire the company. Oracle and RightNow announced the $1.5 billion acquisition on Monday.
Oracle has its foot on the gas pedal, with its competitive streak pushing the company faster than ever. The question is, to what destination?
Do these public battles presage what Oracle is already working on, or do they spur Oracle into action?
Never mind that Salesforce.com's Q2 FY2012 revenues are more than double the estimates for RightNow's entire FY2012 revenues; never mind that Oracle has an entire lineup of CRM options, including its cloud-ready Fusion CRM, Oracle CRM OnDemand, and a hosted PeopleSoft suite.
It may seem incongruous that Oracle would add yet another offering to its already-full lineup of CRM options, but when you have enough money to bail out entire countries, you can afford to hedge a few bets with a deal like RightNow. The $1.5 billion Oracle is spending is about 4% of its cash and investments balance, according to Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard.
Oracle would appear to be going after Salesforce.com with not only a pure-bred, cloud-based CRM offering, but also one that also attempts to integrate social networking. The Bozeman, MT-based RightNow boasts that it offers "customer experience management," rather than customer "relationship" management.
The destination for Oracle, then, is both to conquer its foes and to dig deeper into the world of unstructured data; to dig deeper into world of customer intent and sentiment.
Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch threw down another gauntlet in a conversation earlier this month with InformationWeek's Doug Henschen and me, saying that many of today's technologies "don't confer the ability to understand meaning," an area that he says his company does uniquely, and on a massive scale.
Let the battles begin.
Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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