Thursday, Oracle ran a follow-on to its August 27th Wall Street Journal ad. The Thursday ad was much more pragmatic, and directed at Sun customers who continue to wrestle with the uncertainty surrounding the still-pending merger, officially delayed by the European Commission on September 3rd due to its "serious concerns" about the database market impact. Unless Oracle makes a dramatic concession concerning MySQL, the Europeans will keep the merger in limbo-land for another quarter.
On its face, the ad gives every indication Oracle will keep Sun's SPARC/Solaris hardware business. The ad also is an acknowledgement that "Ellison and company" realize full well that Sun is bleeding server market share, and therefore, needs to do what it legally can to prevent further customer defection of the SPARC/Solaris platforms.
Call me a nitpicky parser of words, but the first three promises in the ad all end with the operative words "than Sun does now;" Since Sun's R&D budget for SPARC and Solaris is likely at a historical low, and the company has made drastic cuts to its employee headcount over the last year, Oracle's assertions are not as bold as they appear.
In addition to Oracle's claim it will increase its investment in Sun SPARC and Solaris, the ad takes a strong competitive posture towards IBM. It's not surprising that Oracle would target IBM since it would be the only other company that could truly offer a comparatively integrated enterprise hardware and software stack. But it's a bit curious why HP has been spared from attack. After all, both HP and IBM have been relentlessly pursuing Sun's customer base with enticing trade-in and migration services programs over the last few quarters.
The ultimate irony is that my parsing of Larry Ellison's words took me back to 1993 when I was a sales rep at Sun Microsystems. At the time, IBM was on the watch list for extinction - victimized by missteps of its own making - and so the board brought in Lou Gerstner as IBM's Chairman and CEO. There was a lot of uncertainly surrounding IBM's future viability and whether Gerstner would break up the company. Gerstner made the bold decision to keep the company together, defiantly declaring, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision."
Most people took this statement to mean that Gerstner didn't believe IBM needed to be a visionary company. Years later, Gerstner clarified his operative words "right now". Perhaps Larry Ellison is taking a page from the old IBM-Gerstner playbook in carefully choosing his words in his latest Oracle WSJ advert.
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