Oracle's Ellison: Siebel, SAP behind the times

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison doesn't think his competitors are stupid. It's their software that makes no sense to him.

SAN DIEGO -- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison doesn't think his competitors are stupid. It's their software that makes

no sense to him. In a predictably brazen keynote this morning, Ellison called Siebel's CRM strategy absurd, described SAP's ABAP programming as dated, and promised that Oracle would guarantee TCO numbers for customers prior to purchase.

The reliably controversial chief executive returned from the Louis Vuitton Cup, after Oracle's loss to Alinghi, in time to address the legions of Oracle customers assembled yesterday at the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company's AppsWorld user conference.

The main thrust of Ellison's speech was that Oracle's Java-based E-Business Suite enables a far more "modern" approach to systems architecture than his competitors' products can and that Oracle can be trusted to provide true TCO numbers.

Ellison told attendees that no matter how thoroughly a piece of business software may be designed, customers inevitably need to customize applications to suit their own needs. By relying on proprietary programming languages, Oracle competitors such as SAP make life hard for customers, he said.

"In the real world, you have to make it easy for companies to gracefully add to their software," Ellison said. "Modern programming tools like Java represent the answer to this problem."

Ellison also repeated his mantra that businesses can reduce the number of databases they operate and lower costs while increasing productivity. An Oracle internal project reduced 97 human resources databases into one central repository, and Ellison said the company saw huge savings and increased performance. Oracle saved some $1 billion during the past year simply by slimming down its array of systems, he said.

While the weeklong AppsWorld schedule includes only a small number of events specific to customer relationship management (CRM), Ellison made time to take shots at Oracle competitors in that market.

The fiery CEO saved the strongest words of his keynote for CRM market leader Siebel Systems Inc., calling it "the height of absurdity" that the company claims to offer a complete view of a customer without integrated financial software such as Oracle's.

"The promise of CRM is to give business a 360-degree view of the customer, yet without the tie in to back-office financials that we have, it's impossible for Siebel or anyone else to deliver on that claim," Ellison said.

"Maybe you can get a 360-degree view of customers who don't buy anything from you, who don't spend any money."

Ellison wrapped up his show by challenging users to find an enterprise software company other than Oracle that gives customers hard numbers on what their enterprise software projects will cost them and on how long those projects stretch.

"We're the only industry that gets away with not telling you upfront what our products cost," said Ellison. "We all know that has to change."

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