What do IBM and Microsoft Do When Oracle has a Captive Audience?

by: SoundView Technology Group

When I did software marketing back in the day, user group meetings were not major events. The key information-technologist and IT-staff meetings of the year were the spring and fall ACM/DPMA/IEEE/etc. “Joint” conferences in the 1960s followed by the annual National Computer Conference [NCC] in the 1970s and—in the 1980s—the geeky tradeshow that probably single-handedly drove the mob out of Las Vegas, Comdex. From a marketing perspective, every IT supplier was on a level playing field in trying to get the attention of the press and prospective customers.

Beginning in the 1990s, smarter software marketeers than my generation’s figured out it would be much better to deal with a captive audience of already committed customers. Thus IT suppliers began to put the full court press on their own user conferences and the great all-comer IT trade shows faded away.

I noticed today that that idea has lead to another marketing technique. Rather than give the company holding its user conference the entire weekly news/blogger cycle, which this week could have been Oracle’s (NASDAQ:ORCL) with its OpenWorld beginning November 12 in San Francisco, the other guys’ PR folks try to come up with a news blast that can’t be ignored. Hats off to IBM (NYSE:IBM) with its proposed purchase of Cognos (COGN), announced on November 12, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) with its November 12 rollout of Windows Server 2008 details. Of course, IBM would say that they could not control the timing of the release of the Cognos deal once it was signed and Microsoft is holding its European TechED in Barcelona this week.

So the question is does Oracle have any news blasts itself to counter the IBM and Microsoft efforts? Based on Charles Phillips kick-off keynote, the answer is a resounding “maybe.” In addition to the usual platitudes about market and technology leadership in the various segments of its business (database/middleware and applications) in his keynote, Phillips joined with the “new” head of all Oracle development, Chuck Rozwat to demonstrate some mildly interesting new products. (With John Wookey’s recent demotion/departure, Rozwat now moves into a spot at Oracle that has about the half-life of a baseball manager’s.)

To kick things off, the pair demonstrated:

  • Some rehashed applications features which I would summarize as “no news blasts here.”
    • Application integration architecture features that looked like SAP (NYSE:SAP) BAPIs from the late 1990s, even leading with the order-to-cash example that has had a longer “demo shelf life” than Steve Jobs
    • Compliance stuff inherited with the Logical Apps acquisition based on active governance and a lot of last-year yawn on Sarbanes-Oxley
    • Former Agile PLM functionality designed to demonstrate Oracle’s best of breed plus suite strategy
  • Some possibly interesting infrastructure stuff that might be more important than the demo illustrated. These included
    • Fusion 10g middleware beta (implicitly)
    • Enterprise Manager and Software Configuration Management functionality
    • Oracle VM, based on the Xen open source virtualization software, which looks like it will let users virtualize both applications as well as servers, including Linux servers

The show goes on all week at Moscone and there maybe a news blast buried somewhere. In terms of investment potential, unless Oracle uses the new Enterprise Manager functionality to more directly take on BMC (NASDAQ:BMC) and CA (NASDAQ:CA) or the VM product to be more aggressive in its Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) Linux program, this week’s PR battle looks like “advantage” IBM and Microsoft.