Oracle singing from different songsheet

As befitting a firm which has grown rapidly through acquisitions, Oracle’s annual user conference, OpenWorld, held in San Francisco, US, last week, was a pretty large-scale event.

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By  Peter Branton Published  October 28, 2006

As befitting a firm which has grown rapidly through acquisitions, Oracle’s annual user conference, OpenWorld, held in San Francisco, US, last week, was a pretty large-scale event.

Elton John was a star performer at Oracle’s OpenWorld event. As befitting a firm which has grown rapidly through acquisitions, Oracle’s annual user conference, OpenWorld, held in San Francisco, US, last week, was a pretty large-scale event.

The attendance was expected to top 42,000, more than 7,000 up on last year, with Oracle going to some lengths to keep those delegates happy; for entertainment a mixed-bag of pop acts booked to appear, including Elton John, with Joan Jett, Berlin and Devo also on the bill.

However, while the bands helped the evenings pass enjoyably, the delegates were really most keen on seeing what tune the Oracle executives themselves were singing.

Oracle’s recent history has been characterised by acquisition and aggression; its spending spree over the past couple of years has effectively turned the business software market on its head.

While Oracle’s controversial boss Larry Ellison seems to have made even more enemies than acquisitions during this streak, there were signs that the firm is looking to change its approach.

While Ellison himself assured customers that the firm wasn’t looking to force them into upgrading their products, Oracle president Charles Phillips talked about how the firm will work more closely with partners to develop support for its applications.

More than one commentator pointed out last week that the company seems to have reached a real sea-change in attitude: an acknowledgement that it can only do so much with acquisitions and will need to work more closely with its customers and partners in future to consolidate on what it has already built.

Of course, don’t expect too much all at once. The company also announced at last week’s event that it is making yet another acquisition, with the purchase of MetaSolv Software, which makes software aimed at the telecommunications industry, for US$219million.

During his keynote, Phillips reiterated the company’s commitment to further acquisitions as a way of getting hold of technology and expertise. Such deals have an incremental cost for Oracle, he claimed, as it can use its technology stack to derive additional benefits.

However, most analysts believe that it will avoid the big multi-billion dollar deals — at least for now — while it works to integrate its various applications offerings into its Fusion strategy.

Oracle is not alone in its desire to work more closely with partners; rival SAP has also worked harder in the past year or so to align its strategy around an ‘ecosystem’ of partners; companies such as IBM and Microsoft have been working in this way for some years.

It will be interesting to see if Ellison decides that there is real benefit of working in harmony with other companies, rather than going solo.

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