The Buzz - 18

Options Scandal

Should Steve Jobs be concerned?

For those keeping score of the options-backdating scandal at home, Apple Computer and Pixar are two of a slew of companies that may have priced stock options at lows to give executives easy money. The common thread between Apple and Pixar: Apple CEO Steve Jobs ran both companies.

The big question regarding Apple and Pixar, now a part of Disney, is this: How much of a threat is the scandal to Jobs? Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer examined the issue and concluded its too early to assess the risk to Jobs. However, there is some risk that Jobs could be tarnished by the scandal brewing at Pixar, said Farmer in a 20-page report examining the issues.

"We believe there are not yet enough facts to form a conclusion on whether key executives might have been involved in creating options irregularities at Apple or Pixar, and our default assumption is that Jobs is not likely to have been involved; however, our review of Pixar disclosures does not allow us to rule out the possibility, given Jobs was a member of the board that made options decisions, and our analysis suggests these may contain irregularities," said Farmer, in New York.

While its unclear exactly how much of a role Jobs had in compensation decisions at Pixar, it does raise yet another interesting question if you assume the worst: Could Apple exist without Jobs? Farmer said Apple could. "We think Apples brand, technology, and network effects are largely independent of management and consumers will buy Macs and iPods regardless of who is CEO," said Farmer.

Enterprise Apps

Oracle allays customer worries

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and his gang seem to be easing customer worries over the database giants application strategy called Fusion. Fusion is expected to build bridges between all of Oracles acquired software from the likes of PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems. According to an Aug. 16 Merrill Lynch survey of 100 North American CIOs, 24 percent of Oracle customers were considering Fusion applications in July, up from just 10 percent in April.

Meanwhile, SAPs window of opportunity to woo Oracle customers is closing a bit. The percentage of Oracle customers considering a switch to SAP declined to 26 percent from 40 percent. To be sure, having one-quarter of your customers considering a move to a rival is worrisome, but Oracles percentage is moving in the right direction. "Oracles work in reassuring customers with the Fusion road map may be paying off finally," wrote San Francisco-based Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan in a report.

Among other findings:

• Fifteen percent of CIOs said they planned to upgrade to Windows Vista, up from 8 percent in April. Only 39 percent said they were waiting for more clarity, down from 75 percent in April.

• Fifty-nine percent of CIOs surveyed said they plan to increase software spending in the second half of the year.

• Forty-eight percent of CIOs said they plan to increase their usage of Linux in 2006, down from 59 percent in April. Of those Linux fans, 32 percent cited Red Hat as their top choice.

BlogWatch

Wikipedia bio provides false information

If you are unlucky enough to have a bio on Wikipedia, you may want to check it daily. If you dont, things can run amok. Mark Cuban, investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, detailed his battle with his bio.

"I hadnt [checked] out my Wiki page in a long time, so I go on there and read some history about myself that never happened [and] other stuff that was just wrong," said Cuban.

So Cuban makes his edits, focusing on an investment in a company called Sharesleuth.com. That move saved the bio problem—for a mere 39 minutes—until someone with a log-in of Mantanmoreland changed everything back to its previous version. Its quite a Wiki War. All the gory details are here: www.blogmaverick.com/entry/1234000350073849.

—Compiled by Larry Dignan

By the Numbers

No worries?

88%

Portion of CIOs who said they dont plan to cut back on IT spending due to macroeconomic concerns such as inflation or interest rates.

Source: Merrill Lynch