Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lots of Oracle action at the Federal Building in downtown Oakland

All the legal action in the software industry this week is concentrated at the Federal Building in downtown Oakland, where the Oracle vs SAP lawsuit over TomorrowNow is taking place. Yesterday, Larry Ellison was "the star witness at the start of the second week of trial in Oracle's copyright infringement suit against the German software giant."

It's kind of hard to get a handle on this case. SAP attorneys say the award should be somewhere around $40 million, while Oracle attorneys contend the amount should be $2 billion, or perhaps even $4 billion. The judge, meanwhile, has already started reducing the amount that Oracle can claim.

I'm also a bit confused about which software, precisely, SAP was illegally accessing. I don't think it was the core Oracle DBMS software; maybe it was the Oracle applications suite, which contains many different packages, including software that Oracle originally wrote themselves as well as products they bought as part of buying Siebel, PeopleSoft, Hyperion, etc. This seems to be the case, according to this description of Safra Catz's testimony about how SAP was using the TomorrowNow program to try to lure customers away from Oracle:

Catz testified that she believed that the efforts to assure customers of Oracle’s level of support would keep them from fleeing Oracle when it came time to renew licenses. As for the arrival of SAP and TomorrowNow, she said, “I’d hoped and believed it would not be material.” Of the estimated 14,000 customers Oracle obtained from its acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel, only 358 went to TomorrowNow, SAP’s lawyers argued.

And then there's the side theater over the subpoena of Leo Apotheker, the former SAP boss who is now the top man at HP. Is he in California? Is he in Germany? Is he in Japan? Were private eyes really hired? Has he been found?

Meanwhile, Chris O'Brien, at the San Jose Mercury News, says that this whole trial isn't even really about SAP, which is a fading figure in Oracle's rear-view mirror, but rather is about those companies that Oracle has in their headlights: HP, Google, Apple, IBM, etc.:

HP should have seen this coming from the day Redwood City-based Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and put itself in direct competition with the Palo Alto tech giant. And it should have expected nothing less from Ellison, Silicon Valley's most cunning corporate fighter, one who draws his energy and focus by creating a clearly defined enemy.

It's all riveting for those of us who watch the industry. But it isn't just entertainment: these are real adversaries, prosecuting real lawsuits for real money, and the implications are likely to fundamentally re-shape the enterprise software industry.

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