Oracle hints there's more to come
Coming hot on the heels of the announcement that PeopleSoft had agreed to acquire J.D. Edwards, Oracle's attempted hostile takeover of PeopleSoft took many by surprise, writes Fran Howarth, of Bloor Research.
Many analysts and industry commentators speculated that this was just a move to derail the PeopleSoft-J.D. Edwards merger. This view was not helped by Oracle's stated intention to stop future development of PeopleSofts's products. For many, this appeared to mean that Oracle would get rid not only of the vendor's products, but also many of its staff as well.
Oracle admits that not all of its message may have been put across too well. Recognising that Oracle and PeopleSoft have many customers in common, Oracle is making efforts to reassure customers that its intentions are good. It has also reiterated that, although some reorganisation is inevitable, it is very keen to retain PeopleSoft's "clever" engineers and developers - not only to continue to support PeopleSoft's existing products, but to help add some of the more advanced functionality of the products to the Oracle e-business suite.
Speaking on an industry analyst conference call on Thursday, Chuck Phillips, EVP for Oracle, stated that the PeopleSoft-J.D. Edwards acquisition news had caught Oracle off guard. He further stated that the announcement had taken away from Oracle the option of watching and waiting until PeopleSoft's share price dropped further, and it became cheaper to acquire.
Since Oracle upped its offer price for PeopleSoft from $16 to $19.50 per share, it looks more likely that J.D. Edwards will be acquired as well as part of the deal. Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, was quoted recently in the Washington Post as saying "I would love to have both PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards."
Over the past week, both Phillips and Ellison have hinted that further acquisitions may be on the way. Ellison has admitted that Oracle is very concerned by the competitive threat posed by Microsoft and that the way to answer that threat is to accelerate growth through acquisitions. He believes that the ongoing consolidation in the market means that "companies are going to get gobbled up, absolutely."
So what can we expect from Oracle? Speaking their analyst conference, Phillips said that Oracle was looking at other potential acquisitions and hinted strongly that their may be other acquisition activity going on in parallel, or perhaps in the not-too-distant future. Phillips explained that Oracle has the financial strength and management breadth to make more than one acquisition, while Ellison hinted that other similar offers may be on the way.
Some in the analyst community have long pondered whether or not Oracle has its sights set on Siebel - especially since many have been less than impressed by Oracle's own developments in the customer relationship management space. But Ellison has said that although an acquisition of Siebel would not be inconceivable, its current financial position makes it too vulnerable for Oracle to consider purchasing it at this point.
Hints made by Phillips suggest that any further acquisition may come in the infrastructure arena. The vendor is not intending to lose its focus on database technologies and Phillips does not deny that an infrastructure acquisition may be on the cards.
So how does this bode for the future and what can customers expect? It looks as if the market will go from the "Big 5" applications vendors that have dominated the integrated applications space for the past few years - Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Baan - to a triumvirate of large integrated products vendors - Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.
SAP has recently released NetWeaver which is its first manoeuvre into the infrastructure space and it also announced this week that it is partnering with IBM to jointly deliver solutions to the small and medium business market, backed up by IBM's hardware products. Microsoft is gearing up to enter the enterprise applications market from the lower end, with announcements expected in the coming weeks. The landscape may be permanently changed.