French regulators decline HP's request to force Oracle to resume supporting Itanium, but say they will continue investigating antitrust claims.
which is asking both U.S. courts and European
for help in forcing Oracle to support Intel's Itanium
platform in its software offerings, lost a round when a French antitrust agency
declined to order Oracle to immediately resume supporting Itanium.
France's antitrust regulator, Autorite de la Concurrence, in
the ruling Jan. 10, also rejected HP's request for an order forcing Oracle to
readjust pricing on its database software that runs on Itanium systems to bring
it in line with what Oracle charges for software running on x86-based systems.
However, French regulators said they will continue
investigating the antitrust claims made by HP in a complaint filed last year
accusing the software giant of anti-competitive practices when it announced in
March that it no longer would support the Itanium platform with its products.
In the order, they said they rejected HP's requests for immediate relief
because there was no "immediate threat" to HP.
The two companies have traded lawsuits in the United States,
and it was revealed in November that HP also is asking European
regulators-including the European Commission, the antitrust arm of the European
Union-to investigate Oracle's decision.
Both sides saw the French agency's actions as validation of
their arguments. In a statement, Thomas Vinje, a lawyer for Oracle, said French
regulators agreed with Oracle's argument that despite denials from the chip maker,
Intel intends to end development of Itanium soon in favor of its x86-based Xeon
chips, and that HP knows that.
"Oracle has acted in the best interest of consumers by
telling the truth as HP has attempted to hide Itanium's real fate from
customers in order to protect its own profits," Vinje said in the
statement. "The full story will become public in April when HP's
litigation in California proceeds to trial, as the U.S. Courts force full
disclosure of all of HP's documents."
By contrast, HP officials said through a statement that the
French agency clearly saw that Oracle had violated antitrust laws in both
France and the EU, and suggested that HP may ask European regulators to review
their approval of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, given "Oracle's
clear pattern of abusive anti-competitive and anti-customer conduct."
HP and Oracle were longtime partners-the two companies share
about 140,000 customers, many of whom run Oracle database software on HP
Itanium-based Integrity servers-but have seen that relationship fray. A key
issue was Oracle's purchase of Sun, in which Oracle inherited Sun's SPARC
hardware business, putting it in direct competition with HP.
HP executives, like their Intel counterparts, have disputed
Oracle's claim that Intel intends to end Itanium's development, despite HP
being by far the largest consumer of the chips. Intel officials have said they
have roadmaps for Itanium development running through the rest of the decade,
and HP has accused Oracle of pulling support for Itanium to bolster its own
SPARC business. HP also claims the decision violates an agreement between the
two vendors to support technologies that are used by their mutual customers.
Oracle officials say there is no such agreement and stand by
their claim that Intel will soon end development of Itanium. They also claim HP
knows about this and purposely is keeping this from their customers, and that HP has been paying
to keep Itanium development going forward.
Oracle's decision has had an impact on HP's
. In August, HP officials said they saw a 9 percent
revenue drop for the company's Business Critical Systems unit, which includes
all of HP's Itanium-based Integrity and NonStop systems. In the fourth fiscal
quarter, revenue for the unit fell 23 percent.