Conway writes off Oracle bid

Despite Oracle's claims to the contrary, PeopleSoft CEO and president Craig Conway has largely dismissed Oracle's multibillion-dollar takeover attempt as a failure

Despite Oracle's claims to the contrary, PeopleSoft CEO and president Craig Conway has largely dismissed Oracle's multibillion-dollar takeover attempt as a failure, and he credited the loyalty of customers who kept buying the company's software despite uncertainty surrounding its financial fate.

On Monday, during a keynote address here at the PeopleSoft Connect 2003 user conference, Conway said the biggest danger from the takeover attempt Oracle launched in June was that customers would slow or stop their planned purchases. That strategy failed, he said, citing the most recent quarterly results, which showed that "customers realised that holding off on planned purchases hurt PeopleSoft and ultimately that would harm themselves."

He said Oracle launched its bid to try and block PeopleSoft's own buyout of JD Edwards & Co, something Oracle perceived as a threat. Nevertheless, "against all odds, PeopleSoft exceeded financial guidance for the second quarter and two weeks later did complete the acquisition."

Conway, known as a tough-talking executive, won widespread laughter from the audience by initially appearing with his black lab, Abby, on a leash, both of them draped in bulletproof vests.

The antic was the latest swipe at Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Earlier this summer, Conway had said the Oracle move was akin to having someone buy your dog in order to shoot it. Ellison, on hearing that, had said if he had only one bullet, he wouldn't use it on Conway's dog.

"At first Ellison was going to discontinue the [PeopleSoft] products, and then he was not, then he was going to shoot the dog, and then he was going to shoot me," Conway joked.

Although the Oracle bid is still being reviewed for antitrust issues by the US Department of Justice, Ellison said last week he remains optimistic that it will be allowed to go through and reiterated that his company will be patient. Oracle declined to comment on Conway's statements.

As for product news, Conway and other PeopleSoft executives further outlined the company's plans and offered more details on the integration road map for the PeopleSoft portfolio and the recently acquired JD Edwards applications.

Conway also announced new support policies. For instance, customers will be able to get software fixes and updates for four years after a product becomes available. Customers will also be able to receive update scripts for the most current release for five years after a product's release.

While PeopleSoft has been putting considerable effort into trying to make life easier for users, one analyst said he doesn't see much difference between PeopleSoft and the competition. "The TOE [total ownership experience] is an acronym as prosaic as the concept behind it," said Ian Jacobs, an analyst at New York-based The451. He added that PeopleSoft is simply fulfilling promises it had already made to the customers that pay the vendor "big bucks for enterprise applications. It's what everyone should be doing."

He also noted that this is a quarterly business, and while PeopleSoft may have made its second-quarter numbers, "Q3 is still up in the air."

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