Oracle Wins, But What's Next for Ellison?


by Tony Kontzer

Larry Ellison is at it again. Always hungry, always on the prowl, always looking to get the last laugh, Ellison may have written his greatest punch line ever over the weekend, swooping in to purchase Sun Microsystems an instant after rival IBM failed to do so. How is this a victory for Ellison and his increasingly powerful Oracle Corp.? Let us count the ways...

1) Let's start with IBM, one of Ellison's favorite foils. Oracle and IBM have long competed in the database market, and the rivalry has intensified in recent years as the two have stepped up their battle to dominate the corporate software market. Then, IBM looks to get a leg up by acquiring Sun and its venerable hardware and Java technologies, but when it comes up short after weeks of rumored talks, Ellison pulls the deal off seemingly overnight. Take that, Big Blue.

2) Then there's Microsoft. Ellison and his buddy-buddy Sun cohort, Scott McNealy, have always looked for any opportunity to punch holes in the Microsoft armor. Ultimately, Microsoft was always able to deflect those attacks with its dominance over both companies. Now, however, the threat becomes much more real. The combined Oracle-Sun should make Microsoft nervous, especially when one thinks about the ways in which Oracle will be able to leverage the Java programming language, which Ellison proclaimed Monday as "the single most important software asset we have ever acquired." Given that Oracle already has acquired the likes of PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, and BEA Systems over the past few years, that is a significant proclamation.

3) And what of the rest of the enterprise applications market? Take a quick look around and there's really only one major player left--SAP, long a personal punching bag for Ellison, who has laughed as the German software maker has passively watched the market for on-demand applications develop, continuing to run itself as if it's still 1993. At this point, SAP simply can't match either the breadth of Oracle's technology stack, or its flexibility. With its acquisition of Sun, Oracle is now officially the 800-pound gorilla in the business software market, and SAP and the like soon will find that there's little left beyond table scraps.

There is a sad side to all of this consolidation, though, and that's the loss in entertainment value. We're rapidly approaching a time when there won't be anyone left to buy, and with no major acquisitions to consider, Ellison's opportunities to be a market disturber are greatly limited. Other than some of the big niche names, such as SunGard or Adobe Systems, the market is now bereft of empires left for Ellison to conquer.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for how Ellison can keep Oracle in the news in the coming years:

-Take over the mortgage industry and show the financial world how a real business is run;

-Snatch up Tesla Motors, put some serious money behind electric car production, and start the process of transforming Silicon Valley into the future hub of the transportation industry; or

-Engineer a hostile takeover of NASA and teach the feds a thing or two about how to spend billions wisely.

Until then, have fun with Java, Larry. There's no rush.

(For more thoughts on the impact of the Oracle-Sun deal, click here.)