Ballmer, Ellison: Can we work it out?

The chiefs of Oracle and Microsoft discussed interoperability when the two met face to face earlier this month. Was anything else on the agenda?

It's not every day that Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison sit down and chat about interoperability of their respective product lines.

In fact, no one at Microsoft seems to be able to recall if Ballmer and Ellison ever have held a tete-a-tete. But Microsoft and Oracle officials have confirmed a report posted on Monday to Fortune magazine's Web site that the two executives recently met and discussed Windows NT and Oracle database interoperability.

According to a Microsoft spokesman, the chief executives met in early December at the request of Ballmer. The spokesman declined to offer further details on topics the two discussed or how long the meeting lasted.

"Steve tries to meet with as many chief executives as possible on a regular basis," the spokesman said. He added that Ballmer's reason for calling the meeting was to ensure mutual customers of the future compatibility of the companies' products.

An Oracle representative confirmed that the two companies had talked regarding the compatibility of Oracle's software with Windows NT, but also declined further comment.

While Microsoft and Oracle compete aggressively and vigorously on the database front, Oracle also is a Microsoft ISV (independent software vendor). As such, Oracle -- like any other software vendor whose products run on Microsoft operating systems -- needs to toe the line in terms of complying with Microsoft application programming interfaces and other guidelines if its software is to work on current and future versions of the Windows operating system.

The Microsoft spokesman, when asked if there were any customer reports of interoperability problems involving Windows and Oracle, said he had no comment.

Oracle's existing 8i database runs well on Microsoft's Windows NT Server product. But, at least so far, Oracle's 8i product has not passed the slew of tests required to earn Windows 2000 Server certification, according to the Windows 2000 certification Web site.

"Windows 2000's adoption as a server platform in the enterprise will depend strongly on Oracle's positioning of its database on this platform," acknowledged GartnerGroup analyst Chris LeTocq.

LeTocq noted that before Windows 2000 was launched in February, Microsoft officials stressed the importance of applications compatibility and had specifically cited the need to iron out some Oracle database-Windows 2000 compatibility problems.

Oracle is in the midst of developing its next-generation Oracle 9i platform, which is due to ship in 2001.

Additional reporting by's Wylie Wong.

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