Microsoft (Deservedly) Takes Its Lumps

The judge in the Oracle antitrust trial gave little credence to Microsoft's testimony on the enterprise ERP market. And with good reason.

Although the Department of Justice vs. Oracle case over Oracles attempted takeover of PeopleSoft was not about Microsoft, the Redmond software vendor cast quite the shadow in the matter, from the time of Oracles initial PeopleSoft bid through to this weeks ruling in the matter.

To wit: The word "Microsoft" figures 77 times in the ruling that was handed down on Thursday. (Thanks to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the count.)

An ironic DOJ ally—given its long history of antitrust wrangling with the government—Microsoft worked actively to block Oracles takeover attempt, claiming that the move would result in a near-monopoly in the enterprise ERP market.

Microsoft is a player in the ERP market, too, thanks to its acquisitions earlier in the decade of Great Plains and Navision. But Microsoft has maintained that it is targeting the SMB (small/midsize business) market, not the enterprise, with its line of four ERP products.

Everyone from Microsofts foes to its partners to its customers has asserted that Microsoft also is aiming at enterprise-level companies with its ERP lineup. (Oracle even sought Microsofts help, early on in the evidence-gathering phase of the trial, attempting to join forces with the Redmondians in defining the enterprise ERP market.)

Predictably, Microsoft rebuffed Oracle and held fast to its claim that it had no designs on the enterprise ERP market. But Microsofts already questionable argument began to look even flimsier when it came to light, during the course of the trial that Microsoft had been holding back-room discussions to buy the enterprise ERP market leader, SAP. Microsoft officials maintained that they were interested in buying SAP simply to improve the integration between SAPs ERP and Microsofts Office products on behalf of their joint customers—not because Microsoft wanted to improve its own position in the lucrative enterprise ERP space.

But the judge in the DOJ/Oracle matter, Vaughan R. Walker, was nobodys fool. He saw that Microsofts argument was full of holes and called Microsoft on the fact.

Walker went so far as to describe Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) chief Doug Burgum, who testified this summer that Microsoft had no plans to target the enterprise ERP market, at least before the end of this decade, as attempting to pull a Uriah Heep on him. As Charles Dickens fans know all too well, this was not a compliment.


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