Oracle Town Hall Meeting Gets Personal

Oracle seeks to quell PeopleSoft customers' concerns.

It got downright personal.

It was Thursday, at the first of a series of online town hall meetings hosted by Oracle Corp. The intent was to persuade PeopleSoft customers of the database giants sincerity and lack of evil intent in its intended purchase of PeopleSoft. At a meeting attended by over 700 people—excluding Oracle employees, according to an Oracle spokeswoman—customers, journalists, financial analysts, and employees of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards & Co. asked Oracle Corp. Executive Vice President Chuck Phillips such things as, "Given that youve only been at Oracle a few months, how can you speak with confidence about what Oracle can or cannot do? Pretty good upgrades? We need a better answer than that."

Phillips kept his cool, though, in an exchange devoid of the catcalling that has characterized Oracles ongoing pursuit of PeopleSoft. "I was a user five years before they went public," Phillips said. "From my experience, and from the customers Ive talked to for the many, many years [Ive been involved with user groups and have known Oracle executives], Id have to say theres a reason theyve been successful. Theyve delivered."

As of Friday, July 11, 43.8 million PeopleSoft shares had been tendered. Thats about 13 percent of outstanding shares.

PeopleSoft customers peppered Phillips with questions about Oracles intent with regards to licensing; continued support, development and enhancement of PeopleSoft products; and Oracles plans to either maintain or jack up prices.

"How can you afford to offer enhanced support without actively selling PeopleSoft products to new customers?" was one such question. It was reiterated a few times.

The question reflects PeopleSoft customers confusion over conflicting remarks from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who earlier in the Oracle-PeopleSoft saga said that his company might not actively sell PeopleSoft products to new customers. Executives at the Redwood Shores, Calif., company later backed off that utterance and issued a statement outlining a list of promises regarding support, including that Oracle 1) will not shut down PeopleSoft products; 2) wont force customers to convert to its e-Business suite; 3) will provide high-quality support, including PeopleSoft specialists; 4) will extend support beyond what PeopleSoft has committed to, or for at least 10 years; 5) will take no action that will reduce functionality of PeopleSoft deployments; 6) will provide ongoing enhancements and PeopleSoft product developments; and 7) will provide free module-to-module upgrades.