Eye on Oracle

Sep 30 2009   2:11PM GMT

Does Larry care about Oracle customers?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

When it comes to his company, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is clearly ‘in it to win it’ – but for whom?

One could justifiably assume it’s for his customers who spend millions on Oracle’s products and services, but as Information Week’s Bob Evans points out in his Open Letter to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, customers (as individuals rather than numbers) often seem to be low on Larry’s list of priorities.

What have we, or haven’t we, heard from Ellison lately to demonstrate this claim?

First of all, the pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems has recently been a topic of great interest for both Oracle and Sun customers.  While Oracle understandably cannot discuss the deal in great detail since it has not yet been approved by the EU, customers have been given little information or assurance from Oracle. Last month, many Sun customers and partners were concerned about how they have heard nothing about the Sun deal since it was announced.

When Ellison did decide to address the public about the acquisition, he used it more as a chance to speak to his competition — IBM – rather than his customers.  In this recent ad in the Wall Street Journal, Ellison does address Sun customers, with vague promises that Oracle will spend “more money” on SPARC and Solaris.  But Ellison’s direct message at the bottom of that ad was aimed squarely at IBM – “We’re in it to win it. IBM, we’re looking forward to competing with you in the hardware business.”

As Evans discusses, this lack of detail from Ellison is not unusual.  Evans writes about Ellison’s comments during his recent Q&A at the Churchill Club, and how Ellison talked at great lengths about his relationships with competitors IBM and HP but said little about his customers:

“It just seemed a bit odd-actually, maybe more than a bit-to see these sweeping and penetrating and candid comments from one of the world’s top executives with so little mention of the role that customers are playing in your thinking,” Evans wrote.

Evans also pointed out that this gives the impression that Oracle and Ellison are interested more in technological features and customer adoption of a product rather than customer value.  What happens after a customer adopts a product? Does Oracle care about that?

Maybe – but it seems to care more about its reputation and going after the competition. So much so that apparently Oracle will make unsubstantiated claims against IBM.  Oracle was reprimanded and fined yesterday by the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC).  In a letter to Oracle and an official statement, the TPC explained that the software giant ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal and The Economist claiming that ‘Oracle + Sun is Faster’ than IBM. Oracle based its claims on benchmark TPC results that it promised to show Oct. 14 at Oracle OpenWorld.  The problem was that the Oracle did not yet have a TPC result at the time it ran the ad.

But are we expecting too much out of Ellison? Evans doesn’t think so, telling Ellison to “don’t ever underestimate the power of your words and your perspectives on your CIO customers.”  Larry should also remember who ultimately pays his salary and allows him to build $200 million yachts. Oh that’s right, his users.

What do you think? Should the multi-billionaire Oracle CEO be responsible for addressing the needs of his customers in greater detail? Do you feel like Oracle cares enough about your needs? What would you like to hear more of from Ellison?

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