Ziffpage Ellisons Microsoft Attacks Backfire

By Matthew Symonds  |  Posted 2003-10-31 Print this article Print

Ellisons Microsoft Attacks Backfire An odd effect of this was to diminish Oracles own extraordinary success. Surely it was better to be known as the worlds biggest enterprise software firm than to be seen as Microsofts perennial challenger. As for Ellisons attacks on Gates, they could make him seem "chippy" and resentful, both of which were far from the truth. What made it even stranger was the fact that Microsoft and Oracle compete only at the margins. To be sure, Microsoft has a database product, originally licensed from Oracles old rival, Sybase, more than a decade ago. But despite attempts by Microsoft to present the latest versions of its SQL Server as being sufficiently capable for data center duty, its deployment is still mostly departmental. Although Microsoft would like nothing better than to destroy Oracles profitability by commoditizing the database business, the demands of Internet computing have so far thwarted that ambition. SQL Server remains essentially a "good enough" database thats bundled into Microsofts BackOffice server suite to put some price pressure on Oracle at the low end of the market. As for applications, Microsoft has remained content to dominate the desktop with Office, preferring to partner with Oracles competitors, such as SAP, than to compete with Oracle head-on.
However, from Ellisons perspective, the assault on Microsoft and all its works, which he initiated in September 1995 when deriding the PC as "a ridiculous device," had not only evolved into the much broader war on complexity, but created an awareness both of Oracle and of its vision of computing that nothing else could have achieved. Since then, although Microsofts wealth had grown almost exponentially thanks to its near-monopoly profits from Windows and Office, it no longer had quite the aura of invincibility it had previously enjoyed. Thanks to the Internet, computing had moved decisively toward a model that played much more to Oracles strengths than to Microsofts. As for the antitrust case against Microsoft that had arisen from its brutal suppression of Netscape, it had not only hugely distracted its senior management but done great damage to the —companys reputation. A few days after, I discussed these issues with Ellison. The Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals found Microsoft guilty of serially abusing its monopoly power while rejecting the controversial remedy of District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that it should be broken into two companies.
Ellisons antipathy toward Microsoft seemed to go much further than simply seeing it as a dangerous business adversary. He once said to me that what he really didnt like about Microsoft was that it didnt have any taste. What did he mean? "Well, actually I was quoting Steve Jobs. He said that the thing that really bothers him most about Microsoft is not how successful they are or how much money they have; its the tasteless mediocrity of their software." Next page: Ellisons own words about Microsoft.


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