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There was no shortage of disgust from the PeopleSoft camp after Oracle made a less than exhilarating bid for the company last week.

PeopleSoft executives digested Oracle's offer for a couple of hours before issuing a curt press release. The statement made clear that the CEO's office objects to the deal and put earlier rhetoric from Oracle into question.

PeopleSoft CEO and President Craig Conway described Oracle's $5.1 billion bid as "atrociously bad behavior from a company with a history of atrociously bad behavior."

The contrast between Oracle and PeopleSoft's take on this transaction is remarkable. Conway describes Oracle as a trouble-making bully, but Larry Ellison speaks fondly of his chats with Craig.

"Craig approached me," Ellison, CEO of Oracle, said during a conference call. "His idea was that we would create an all new company which would combine the Oracle application business with PeopleSoft's application buesiness . . . We thought it was a good idea to put the two businesses together, but again, we didn't come to an agreement, so we've made this offer."

Conway sees the recent circumstances in a much different light, portraying Ellison's vitriol as an attack on the J.D. Edwards buy announced earlier in the week. PeopleSoft plans to snag the assests of J.D. Edwards for $1.7 billion.

"PeopleSoft has gained market share against Oracle in the past few years, and earlier this week announced its intent to acquire J.D. Edwards, a leader in mid-market enterprise applications," Conway added in the statement. " Obviously it is a transparent attempt to disrupt the acquisition of J.D. Edwards by PeopleSoft announced earlier this week."

Some analysts are calling the 5 percent premium Oracle is offering PeopleSoft an outright insult. The low bid, if it's not an opening shot, does seem to back Conway's assertion that Oracle wants to disrupt the J.D. Edwards buy and little more.

In addition, Oracle is not painting a pretty picture for future PeopleSoft employees or customers. Support will go on, yes, but sales of new PeopleSoft product will be slowed and then replaced by Oracle code. This hardly seems like a way to make friends during the tense, complicated acquisition process.

Ellison did a make a plea to customers and shareholders during the conference call. He assured users that Oracle's support services will far exceed those of PeopleSoft. Oracle sells software. PeopleSoft sell software. How hard can it be.

For the investors Ellison said: "We think the PeopleSoft shareholder, when faced with the alternative -- again, what we view as a risky merger with J. D. Edwards, the PeopleSoft shareholder will look at the $16 a share and think that's a good price and a very, very safe alternative."

In a pressure-filled, consolidating software market, Oracle is using low-bid tactics to make PeopleSoft appear weak and vulnerable. Oracle wants a big chunk of the PeopleSoft business to help boost revenues, so why not make a rival appear on edge.

The PeopleSoft camp, however, may see this as a clear sign that Oracle is feeling the heat from a smaller rival.

A flood of details in this saga lurk behind the scenes and will trickle out sooner or later. Perhaps then we'll know whether Ellison is up to his showman tricks or if he's as brutal a businessman as they say. ®

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