Oracle Vs. The World

Oracle has its foot on the gas pedal, pushing the company faster than ever. But to what destination?
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It is only mildly far-fetched to think that shortly after 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?

Just last week, Oracle announced it would acquire Endeca Technologies, just weeks after HP closed its acquisition of Autonomy. Endeca brings Oracle the ability to analyze unstructured data, in particular customer experience data in e-commerce environments.

Oracle closely followed its Endeca acquisition by immediately releasing its NoSQL database and announcing that its Big Data Appliance would come in Q1 2012. More aggressive moves.

[ Is Oracle talking up analytics power you don't need? See SAP And Oracle: Get Real About In-Memory Analysis. ]

Shortly before acquiring Endeca, Oracle's Larry Ellison had been engaging in a war of words with Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch regarding whether Autonomy shopped itself to Oracle before HP made its offer.

Do these public battles presage what Oracle is already working on, or do they spur Oracle into action?

Never mind that'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 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.

Earlier this year, Oracle acquired InQuira, which is also in the business of helping determine customer intent.

The InQuira acquisition followed's eyebrow-raising consumption of Radian6, a company known for its social media monitoring.

All of this at a time when Microsoft continues to make aggressive moves into the same space -- earlier this summer, Microsoft began offering, Oracle, and SAP customers rebates to switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

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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