In Larrys Own Words

"Softwar," the new semi-autobiographical book about Oracle and Larry Ellison, provides a number of interesting insights into them. In this excerpt, author Matthew Symonds explains exactly how Ellison views Microsoft and why he thinks Gates is

Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

For Oracle followers its a bumper crop—two important books released about Ellison and Oracle within a few weeks of each other.

A few weeks ago we brought you an excerpt from the unauthorized biography of Larry Ellison—"Everyone Else Must Fail"—where author Karen Southwick pondered the future of Oracle. The book looks at Oracle through the eyes of the disgruntled—former workers, investors and ex-friends.

"Softwar"—the semi-autobiographical book from Matthew Symonds and Larry Ellison—takes a different approach. Symonds spent almost two years in regular company with Ellison, plumbing the depths of this complex man and the company he built. In some spots it reads like "Travels With Charley," but it is at its best when Ellison himself pens one of the many footnotes littering the text, to clarify or explain a particular passage.

We bring you a passage from "Softwar," where Symonds details the beginnings of the Ellison/Gates feud, and how Oracle chose its particular brand of competing with the Redmond, Wash., Co.

Unlike Southwick, who reported from afar, Symonds was granted unprecedented access to Ellison. After reading through this revealing excerpt, join Symonds and editors in our forums, discussing what it was like to live on Ellisons rarefied strata.

—Jim Louderback

SOFTWAR, By Matthew Symonds with Larry Ellison

A subject thats close to Ellisons heart is Oracles enemies. He strongly believes that Oracle is always at its best when it has an identifiable enemy to go after: "We pick our enemies very carefully. It helps us focus. We cant explain what we do unless we compare it to someone else who does it differently. We dont know if were gaining or losing unless we constantly compare ourselves to the competition." When Oracle was fighting its relational database rivals for market supremacy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was famous for the in-your-face aggression of its "attack" advertising.

The aggression hasnt altered, but the size and power of the firms with which Ellison wants Oracle to be compared have. These days, none other than IBM finds itself the regular target of Oracles ads and Ellisons combative speeches, while not a little of Ellisons own fame has come directly from his highly public assaults on Microsoft and his obsession with one day overtaking the colossus of Redmond to make Oracle the number one software company in the world. When people think of Ellison, its all too often as a kind of alter ego to Bill Gates, softwares other billionaire.

Next page: Ellisons Microsoft attacks backfire.