The Oracle OpenWorld conference starting Monday in San Francisco will likely be more closely watched than some of the other recent renditions of this annual show.
Thats because this years OpenWorld may give some hints about how the company might integrate PeopleSoft applications into its product lineup now that it appears to be closer than ever to actually closing the buyout.
What customers and attendees should be looking for is whether Oracle has any kind of coherent enterprise application strategy, with or without the PeopleSoft applications factored in.
In its 26-year history, Oracle never has never been as commanding a player in the applications business as it has been in the database industry. It has been the third contender behind PeopleSoft and SAP AG in the ERP (enterprise resource planning) sector even as it has tried diligently to match most of PeopleSofts offerings application for application.
Oracles problem has been that it hasnt focused on developing world-class ERP applications for the sake of being the market leader in those application spaces. It develops applications mainly to keep spurring the sales of new Oracle relational database installations.
That is still the main purpose of what is likely to be the big enterprise application news at this years OpenWorld: the introduction of Tsunami, Oracles enterprise content management initiative.
Tsunami is designed to serve as the latest entry in the long list of document and content management systems that are supposed to help large corporations make sense of their vast stores of correspondence, e-mail, marketing communications or training material.
Enterprises are always looking for new products that will help them do this more efficiently because they havent yet found a product that allows them to sort and retrieve unstructured documents as effectively as they want to meet business, legal and regulatory requirements.
The latest reports indicate that Oracle will introduce Tsunami as a major upgrade of its Collaboration Suite. But typically, Oracle officials dont stress that Tsunami is designed to become the top content management product on the market. But they are quick to say it will help drive sales of Oracle databases.
OpenWorld attendees also should look for Oracle to announce enhancements to the BI (business intelligence) capabilities of its financial applications. Oracle has consistently fortified the business intelligence, analysis and risk management capabilities of its financial suite, again because these features reinforce the value of its core database technology.
Regular enhancements are essential for Oracle to keep up with the business intelligence capabilities of its key rival in the database market, IBMs DB2 relational database. It also allows it to keep a swarm of smaller, dedicated BI application vendors such as Cognos Inc., Business Objects Inc., Informatica Corp. and not to mention PeopleSoft from carving up the Oracle market for themselves.
In October, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company announced the Oracle Regulatory Capital Manager, which was designed to help financial services companies in Europe comply with the Bank for International Settlements Basel II regulatory requirements. This tool allows financial services companies to capture and analyze the data required according to the Basel II accords.
Its certain that Oracle will continue to add new analysis features to meet new regulatory requirements in the United States and abroad.
But what Oracle applications customers want to know—just as much as PeopleSoft customers and employees want to know—is how much of Oracles existing application portfolio will survive a PeopleSoft buyout. While the buyout is still uncertain and is likely to remain undecided until PeopleSofts next annual meeting in February, customers of both companies have been weighing what Oracle would do with PeopleSofts applications.
Since Oracle first launched the buyout campaign in June 2003, company officials made statements that it wanted to buy PeopleSofts customers more than it wanted to buy its application portfolio. But that has always sounded like more Oracle arrogance and bravado.
Oracle has cant just scrap all of that software its willing to pony up $9.2 billion to buy. Its more than likely that Oracle will slap its logo onto the best-selling PeopleSoft applications and let its own native apps just fade into the background.
A lot of Oracle applications customers may soon be calculating how much they will have to pay to upgrade to PeopleSoft products as much as some PeopleSoft customers worry that they will have to move a native Oracle application.
No doubt a lot of pointed questions along these lines will be circulated behind the scenes and in some of the news conferences and executive briefings that go on in the next few days at Oracle OpenWorld.