When the outspoken leaders of two major IT firms get together to make a significant announcement, you just know there's going to be some zingers flying around.
That's what happened yesterday in Redwood Shores where Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy joined forces to kick off a "newly reinvigorated" partnership under which the two companies will combine products and marketing tactics in an effort to provide a Java-based alternative to Microsoft .NET.
McNealy and Ellison rarely speak in public without taking comedic shots at their competitors -- including each other -- and yesterday's townhall-style meeting at Oracle headquarters was no exception.
"Larry, everybody here wants to know right now … are you buying Sun?" asked McNealy, playing off the rumors that yesterday's event was set so Oracle could announce yet another takeover. "A simple yes or no would do here."
But Ellison shot back, scoring the biggest laugh of the day and showing off his self-deprecating side.
"Just read the newspapers," he said. "It turns out that Oracle's strong preference is to do everything hostile-ly."
Later in the event, McNealy began explaining that the two firms will continue to compete in several areas, including the identity management space. But the conversation quickly devolved into something else.
"There have been areas of overlap and divergence, and you know, you aren't totally faithful and we aren't totally faithful either -- but maybe you less so than us," McNealy said.
That's when Ellison responded, "We are talking about IT, right?"
"Well, my wife's in the front row," McNealy answered. "I don't know where yours is."
Toward the end of the meeting, McNealy talked about one reason why IT industry honchos tend to make disparaging remarks about their industry rivals in public forums.
"We have fun with [the competition] and all the rest of it," McNealy said. "But that's a sign of respect when we give them grief."