Is Ghengis On the Hunt Again?

Now that Oracle owns PeopleSoft, and all signs point to a reinvigorated push by Oracle into the enterprise applications space, it's worth wondering who CEO Larry Ellison has in his crosshairs.
Now that Oracle owns PeopleSoft, and all signs point to a reinvigorated push by Oracle into the enterprise applications space, it's worth wondering who Larry has in his crosshairs. I don't mean from an acquisitions standpoint (heaven forbid Oracle engages in another 18-month hostile acquisition any time soon) but from a competitive standpoint. Remember, this is the man whose infamous Genghis Kahn quote -- "It's not enough to succeed, everyone else must fail" -- is the stuff of legend. So it's safe to say that Ellison is out hunting for victims. Here are my top picks.

SAP. It goes without saying that Oracle wants to eat SAP's lunch. The chances that will happen any time soon are negligible. But you can expect a lot of time, effort and money will be spent on unseating the market leader. How will Oracle do that? One way will be to co-opt SAP's NetWeaver strategy with a stronger linkage between Oracle's technology and applications line. That won't be easy -- the linkage hasn't been fully developed yet. But it's probably Oracle's best bet. Applications hosting will be another: Oracle is a leader, and if the market ever comes back to accept hosting as the extraordinary value that it is, Oracle's advantage will give it some powerful credibility.

IBM. More tough, chewy lunchmeat for Ellison. In this case, it's Oracle's applications that make the difference. IBM has database and technology chops that make life miserable for Oracle salespeople, but its emphasis on consulting (read: custom development) can be attacked by a strong technology vendor selling packaged applications. The installed base of PeopleSoft customers will give Oracle a lot of cross-sell opportunities. I say IBM is in for a bad time. (Especially in the long run if and when Oracle buys a consulting business or two.)

Microsoft. Ellison sees Microsoft's Business Solutions apps -- Axapta, Navision, and Great Plains -- as breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the great ironies of the Department of Justice suit against Oracle is that Microsoft executives and customers were forced to admit that Microsoft isn't as competitive as its own hype would like it to believe. Oracle vs. Microsoft should be relatively easy this time around: Oracle has a proven mid-market solution, Special Edition, that is scalable, based on the full apps and technology offering, and very cost-effective. It can be offered as a hosted solution, as a turnkey solution, or in full-blown implementation mode. And at the high end, Oracle can outperform and outscale Axapta any day of the week. Genghis might be right about this one: If Oracle succeeds, this really could spell failure for Microsoft.

BEA. I've been down on BEA for a while, mostly because their technology offerings are in danger of commoditization by the Oracles and SAPs of the world. I think this will become even more evident as Oracle gets its apps and technology strategies in line. Confronted with SAP's more advanced NetWeaver strategy, BEA is more vulnerable than ever. There's an interesting twist to the BEA/Oracle story: Many PeopleSoft customers rely on BEA's Tuxedo transaction management system, something that may give BEA a little financial leverage with Oracle in the short run but will only accelerate Ellison's desire to squash BEA one way or the other. I see the Genghis effect looming for BEA as well.

Lawson. It looks like Larry already ate part of their lunch, judging by Lawson CEO Jay Coughlan's excuse for their recently reported bad quarter. Apparently, the "uncertainty of the Oracle/PeopleSoft merger" caused a drop in license revenue of more than 20 percent. Wait until they see how bad things can get now that the uncertainty is over.

How quickly Oracle will be able to move into attack mode is still unknown. There's a lot of house-cleaning to be done, both at Oracle and PeopleSoft, and a lot of strategizing on what to do about technology, applications, sales and marketing. And the effort Oracle expended on the acquisition came at an enormous price in terms of applications marketing momentum and positioning. But watch out, Larry's on the hunt again. And one thing I've learned in 20 years of watching Ellison: he always plays his best game when he's in the role of ferocious competitor.






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