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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is happy with SAP’s choice of NetWeaver as its middleware because it has “an almost non-existent market share”.

In a Q&A session during his keynote speech closing Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, Ellison was given a golden opportunity to lambaste NetWeaver and underline the company’s new open-to-all strategy. He claims that Oracle Fusion Middleware holds a bigger share in the SAP market because NetWeaver is three or four iterations behind with open standards versions.

When asked which of the companies would be ahead in five years time, Ellison switched to being the diplomat. He described SAP as being a very important applications company, nominated Microsoft as being his main concern but sees online CRM as the main battleground.

“I think the pure-play On Demand players, like Salesforce.com and Netsuite, are going to be serious players. I think the outsourcers, like Infosys are going to be serious players. I think the application space is going to be diverse and complex five years from now. If it was just going to be Oracle versus SAP it would make our life a lot simpler.”

Ellison’s performance was not that of the sarcastic firebrand from years gone by but a mature, and consequently lack-lustre, presentation. This maturity seems to filter into the product philosophy, and he expressed this by saying that Oracle has to be open to allow use of competitive databases behind its applications.

His emphasis on standards compliance also underpinned the message that the world is changing and Oracle has to compete on price, functionality, reliability and security. Despite this, the future may not be so open. In his presentation, Ellison said that he cannot guarantee that the Fusion project will sit easily on other databases.

With 35,000 attendees at the conference, Oracle is still a big draw. The company estimates that the timeline for fusing its product lines will take between seven and ten years, assuming the Siebel acquisition succeeds.®

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