Microsoft Hypocrisy Infuriates Ellison

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

Microsoft Hypocrisy Infuriates Ellison Symonds continues: There are few things that Ellison loathes more than hypocrisy. Its one of the reasons that people often find him objectionable—he almost never says the politically correct thing, whether the subject is dating Oracle employees or how he spends his money. If he thinks hes in danger of sounding sanctimonious, hell suddenly shut up in the middle of a conversation. More than anything, it was Gatess hypocrisy about the "right to innovate" that infuriated Ellison: "I didnt despise Bill for destroying Netscape, which wasnt very nice or legal, for that matter. Bill just calculated he could smash his competitors by breaking the law and get away it. Who knows? Maybe he can. But when Bill defended Microsofts murderous behavior by saying, All I ask is the right to innovate, that kind of pushed me over the edge. Netscape did the innovation, Bill—thats why you killed them! All you did was copy the innovation and destroy the innovator. To kill the innovator in the name of innovation was such an incredible lie, such a cynical piece of deception, such hyperhypocrisy, I just couldnt stand it. If Bill had said, We killed Netscape because they were in our way; they werent tough enough to survive, so fuck em. Hey, Andreessen [Marc Andreessen founded Netscape when he was twenty-one], welcome to the software industry, punk. Ive got a little present for you; its a pine box and a bullet with your name on it. Thatll teach little kids to stay the fuck out of my neighborhood. Mess with Microsoft, you die. Okay, cool. Thats still not very nice, but at least its honest."
Ellison Responds: "Most people are so in love with their own ideas that it confines their thinking—creates boundaries and limits their ability to solve problems. Bill, however, has this Asian-like ability to manage his intellectual vanity and take ideas, regardless of where they come from, and put them to work for Microsoft.* The terrifying thing about Bill is that hes smart enough to understand what ideas are good—whats worth replicating—and he has the discipline and resources to get on with it and make it just a little bit better. Thats very Japanese. Thats very scary. Add that to Bills ruthless perseverance and the fact that Microsoft has more money than God, and you get a most formidable foe—the ultimate foe, the perfect enemy. We pick our enemies very carefully. We decided to pick a fight with the biggest, most dangerous bully in the schoolyard. Theres no way to avoid this fight, so lets start it." Next page: Ellison recalls a phone call with Gates.

Ellison Recalls a Phone Call With Gates For a couple of years—between 1990, when Microsoft did its deal with Sybase, and 1992, when Oracle 7 arrived to save his bacon—Ellison regarded Gates as a direct competitor. But for most of the time, at least until Ellison launched his attack on the PC in the wake of the release of Windows 95, these were profound differences between Oracle and Microsoft—one was a desktop company, the other was server-based; one was Windows, the other largely UNIX; one believed in the proprietary software route, the other was committed to standards—actually made it easier for the two men to get along. Ellison says, "Bill and I used to be friends, insofar as Bill has friends. Back in the eighties and early nineties, all the people in the PC software industry hated Bill because they feared Bill. But Oracle didnt compete with Microsoft very much back then, so we got on pretty well. As I got to know Bill, I developed a great respect for the thoroughness of his thinking and his relentless, remorseless pursuit of industry domination. I found spending time with Bill intellectually interesting but emotionally exhausting; he has absolutely no sense of humor. I think he finds humor an utter waste of time an unnecessary distraction from the business at hand. Scary stuff. I dont have anything like that kind of focus or single-mindedness." One telephone conversation with Gates in 1993 sticks in Ellisons mind. "It was the most interesting conversation Ive ever had with Bill, and the most revealing. It was around eleven oclock in the morning, and we were on the phone discussing some technical issue, I dont remember what it was. Anyway, I didnt agree with him on some point, and I explained my reasoning. Bill says, Ill have to think about that, Ill call you back. Then I get this call at four in the afternoon and its Bill continuing the conversation with Yeah, I think youre right about that, but what about A and B and C? I said, Bill, have you been thinking about this for the last five hours? He said, yes, he had, it was an important issue and he wanted to get it right. Now Bill wanted to continue the discussion and analyze the implications of it all. I was just stunned. He had taken the time and effort to think it all through and had decided I was right and he was wrong. Now, most people hate to admit theyre wrong, but it didnt bother Bill one bit. All he cared about was what was right, not who was right. Thats what makes Bill very, very dangerous. Join Author Matthew Symonds in our forum from Oct. 31 through Nov. 5 as he discusses what it was like to live inside Ellisons reality distortion field for two years.


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