Oracle Rethinks Its Dumpster-Diving Ways

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-04-29

Oracle Rethinks Its Dumpster-Diving Ways

Was it hypocritical of Oracle to hook up with the Association for Competitive Technology after hiring private eyes who attempted to paw through ACTs trash amid the Microsoft antitrust trial back in 2000?

Of course it was. Check out some of these Ellison quotes compiled by the daily online press review site Netsurf that hearken back to the database divas dumpster-diving days:

  • "All we did was to try to take information that was hidden and bring it into the light, I dont think thats arrogance. Thats a public service."

  • "I dont know if were alone in this. The Justice Department felt the need to investigate this company, too."

  • "Left undisclosed, these Microsoft front groups could have improperly influenced one of the most important antitrust cases in U.S. history."

  • "We will ship them our garbage. We will ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it. We believe in full disclosure."

  • "Theyre special [Microsoft], Theyre the only ones weve felt the need to investigate. Theyre the only ones who destroyed the most innovative company in Silicon Valley in the last decade—Netscape."

    My, how things have changed in the four years that have elapsed since the commencement of what quickly became known as Trashgate. In the statement Oracle issued on its recent embrace of ACT, Oracle Vice President Ken Glueck said, "ACT has been a tireless champion for a consistent, principled approach to information technology policy. Despite our past disagreements, we are proud to be ACT members and look forward to working with them on security, intellectual property and competition issues."

    ACT must feel pretty darn redeemed, what with going from being a "Microsoft front group" to being a "tireless champion for a consistent, principled approach" to IT, God, apple pie and the American Way.

    I really dont have a clue as to whether ACT is, or has ever been, a slimy front for Microsoft, for Osama bin Ladens North American DBA terrorist nerd cell, for the Penguin, for the Joker or for the Riddler. But I do know that it would be much simpler and more elegant to just assume that they do what they say they do. Which, in a nutshell, is this (taken from their mission statement):

    "ACT and its members believe that the best way to achieve a healthy Tech Environment and a thriving technology industry is to apply free-market principles that promote innovation, investment and competition. ACT is committed to core free-market principles including:

    1. Consumers, not governments, should pick winners and losers in the marketplace.

    2. Small tech businesses thrive on innovation, not regulation and litigation.

    3. The law of regulation includes the corollary of unintended consequences."

    Is ACT a shill that serves the competitive interests of its members? Well, duh. Thats the definition of an interest group. Does Oracle want to become a member and have its ability to acquire PeopleSoft vigorously defended, as ACT has done on multiple instances over the past months? Why, yes, actually, that sounds like a smart idea.

    Next page: Oracle has a new best friend.

    Oracles new best friend

    Think about it: ACT has been one of the loudest proponents of Oracles PeopleSoft takeover. At the beginning of April, ACT demanded that the state of Michigan and the Department of Justice immediately withdraw their lawsuit against Oracle, based on the fact that both entities purchased enterprise software from companies other than the three named in the case—Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP—as being the only three enterprise-software providers worth considering.

    Click here for commentary on why the DOJ and Michigan arent necessarily hypocrites for buying software sold by vendors other than SAP-PeopleSoft-Oracle.

    On top of that, back in February, ACT President Jonathan Zuck issued a statement saying that "The Department of Justice should rethink its decision to block the merger of Oracle and PeopleSoft. The market for enterprise applications is both fluid and extremely competitive. Allowing Oracle and PeopleSoft to merge will enable the combined company to invest more in the research and development necessary to create better products at better prices. Using contrived market definitions such as Supply Chain Management (SCM), Customer Relations Management (CRM) or Human Resources (HR) and Financial Management Systems (FMS) can hide the depth of competition in this market."

    Just as ACT went to the mat to defend Microsoft against antitrust legislation, its now doing the same for Oracle.

    Was it hypocritical of Oracle to turn from trash-picking ACT to joining it and praising it to the skies? Sure, on the face of it, it was. Was it smart of Oracle to team up with one of the loudest critics of the governments antitrust witch trials? It sure was.

    And if there are two things you cant say about Larry Ellison, they are these: 1) that he is not a smart man; and 2) that he is inflexible.

    Joining ACT is an easy one to swallow. The day I see Larry Ellison on a stage with Bill Gate, that will be when I suspect that gravity has reversed its pull and water is flowing down sinks in directions hitherto unseen in the Northern Hemisphere. Until then, hypocrisy is just another way to say "good business sense."

    Tell me your thoughts either by registering for TalkBack and posting your comments below or by mailing me at Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas has written about enterprise applications since 1997.

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