The recent management shake-up at Oracle, where Safra Catz and Chuck Phillips were promoted to president, and Jeff Henley to chairman, was a topic of conversation around the show. Heres Larrys response to why he did it. "It was all designed for one simple focus: to have our senior executives spend more time with customers. Thats priority one, two, three, four and five. Jeffs been our financial officer for a while, and weve had conversations about the best ways for him to spend his time. And thats with customers. The more time Jeff spends with customers, the better input and the better management decisions we make. They [Katz, Phillips and Henley] are going to be spending much more of their time with customers, so we have better information from our customers on what were going to emphasize and what were doing next.""Ive been chairman of Oracle for half the time Ive been there. [Ellison reels off a list of other Oracle chairmen from the past.] Im not an expert in accounting, Jeff is. Im not up on all the new rules. Jeff is. He knows Oracle from the inside. And I cant think of anyone better equipped. But that was Priority 1a. Spending more time with the customers was Priority One." "And we certainly want to keep Jeff around too." (laughter). There was a lot of talk about pricing, particularly since the cost of 10g hasnt been announced yet. Ellison was critical of industry-standard pricing models based on processors or users. "I think all pricing models have flaws. Theres always an edge condition. The best model is an employee pricing model thats annual. Lets count employees, and then give a company all the Oracle you can eat forpick a numbersay $100 an employee per year. "Its very difficult for our customers to even count processors, or users of systems. Ask a large company how many processors they have! They just dont know. Its a much more convenient pricing model to count the number of employees you have each year. I think thats a much more reasonable approach to pricing, and thats a direction wed like to go. Right now you buy the product, and then pay a 20 percent subscription service each year. My favorite situation would be to have no new license sales and all subscription services." Ellison used his bully-pulpit as an opportunity to chastise the financial analysts for failing to see what he considers a fundamental piece of Oracles business. "Whats not well-understood about Oracle is that if nothing changes, if we sell $3 billion worth of new softwaresame as last yearour profits go up $600 million. You would say Oracle didnt grow. But because the subscription service goes up 20 percent [of that $3 billion number] we add $600 million in profit. We cant avoid it. We can figure out some way to spend it, I suppose. But the most profitable part of our business is our subscriptions, not new software sales. "That subscription is a very interesting line. They think its part of our service business. Its not. Its part of our software business. And there is zero cost. Zero service. If software sales do increase, its more! "We think our margins can expand very substantially. I dont think we want to control the expansion [what some people call investing]. I think we have more sales capacity. Well have more efficiency, and more use of telesales. Theres plenty of existing capacity to grow our sales. So you should see a top line growth of sales. Youll see substantial margin expansion." Larry went on to suggest that a 50 percent margin is feasible, although Oracle has yet to hit 40 percent. After he left the room, newly minted Chairman Henley took the stage and tried to clarify Ellisons discussion of marginfocusing on 40 percent first. Henley was then joined by new presidents Katz and Phillips, who clarified the pricing discussionsaying that a completely subscription-based pricing model is a long way off.
Ellison went on to discuss why he gave up the chairman role, but stopped himself as he began to discuss what, exactly, his role is to be.