Oracle remains tight-lipped about PeopleSoft

Oracle president Charles Phillips opened Oracle's OpenWorld show with a keynote address that avoided controversial topics such as...

Oracle president Charles Phillips opened Oracle's OpenWorld show with a keynote address that avoided controversial topics such as Oracle's hostile bid for PeopleSoft and focused instead on a high level overview of Oracle's vision for flexible, integrated IT systems.

This year's Oracle OpenWorld, in San Francisco, marks the first time Oracle has hosted a combined show in the US for its database and applications software, which were previously covered in two separate conferences. Oracle estimates this year's show attendance at 25,000.

Many of those attendees packed in to hear Phillips and Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina discuss their companies' strategies for helping organisations manage their enterprise information and datacentres.

Among the few new initiatives mentioned in the keynotes is a joint hardware-and-software bundle Oracle and HP will offer in North America through their channel partners.

HP's ProLiant servers will be available with Oracle's small-business-aimed E-Business Suite Special Edition preinstalled. Oracle, which introduced the Special Edition applications bundle in the US in September, said it will expand its training, sales and marketing support for Oracle and HP partners.

Phillips also discussed Oracle's plans for a road show of half-day educational seminars to introduce IT managers to the basics of putting together a modern datacentre built around standard hardware and software components.

Server maker Dell, chip maker Intel and Linux developers Red Hat and Novell will work with Oracle on the seminars, dubbed the "Architecture of the Future" programme. Oracle plans to hold the seminars in 14 cities in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, beginning in January.

Phillips and HP's Fiorina, whose address immediately followed Phillips', devoted most of their remarks to emphasising their companies' commitment to helping customers streamline their IT architectures and build flexible, more easily managed systems.

Most of the conference focused on questions about Oracle's $9.2bn hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft, which Phillips never discussed in his keynote.

Oracle is in a wait-and-see position at the moment, Phillips said, as Judge Leo Strine of Delaware's Chancery Court prepares his decision on Oracle's request that PeopleSoft's antitakeover protections be voided.

"This is a very unusual deal, it goes without saying. We're breaking new ground just by doing this," Phillips said. "We don’t want to presuppose the next 10 steps before we get the next piece of information."

Phillips reiterated Oracle's strategy for managing PeopleSoft's applications: If the deal goes through, Oracle will maintain two code bases, and support existing PeopleSoft customers while focusing on its own applications in new business bids.

AMR Research found in a recent survey that 64% of the PeopleSoft customers it polled have low expectations for how well Oracle will support PeopleSoft products. More than 60% said they would immediately drop their maintenance contracts if Oracle stopped enhancing PeopleSoft's applications. 

Phillips brushed aside such concerns, saying that when push comes to shove, few PeopleSoft customers will rip and replace their application infrastructures if Oracle buys PeopleSoft.

Phillips also suggested that existing PeopleSoft customers would be better off with Oracle owning the applications, because Oracle can take PeopleSoft developers that currently work on functionality for new markets and redeploy them.

"By our estimation half of PeopleSoft's developers are working on next generation [features] and new markets. We would take those resources and focus them on existing applications because we don't have to expand it into new markets," Phillip said.

However, he later avoided a direct response to a question about how much of PeopleSoft's staff Oracle would retain. He also suggested that the best of PeopleSoft's developers would probably prefer to work on Oracle's products.

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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