Do RIM's troubles act as a warning to Oracle?

Do RIM's current woes portend the future for Oracle?
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

If we are to believe what we're seeing, RIM is in deep trouble. It's bad enough that the world and his dog seems to have abandoned its iconic brand for Apple and Android but when shareholders get angry then you know there is something up. At its AGM, the co-CEO's dodged a bullet when rumblings about a vote of confidence in their ability ebbed away. Make no mistake, RIM's future is on a clock that is ticking down rapidly. But what relevance to Oracle?

In an intriguing story about what it is like inside RIM, BGR says:

Publicly, the company is portraying a very defensive image — one that is very dismissive, as if RIM is profitable and class-leading, and the media is out of line to criticize its business, as are investors. Internally, however, there’s a different story to be told. It’s a story filled with attitude, cockiness, heated arguments among the executive team and Co-CEOs, and paranoia. We’ve spoken to multiple ex-RIM executives at length about their experiences with the company over the past few years. While most speak highly of RIM and their time in Waterloo, they also each left the company due mainly to RIM’s lack of vision and leadership.

Can the same be said of Oracle? Not entirely. But some of the warning signs are there and especially for its applications business.

In recent times I have come across a number of ex-applications business customers who tell much the same tale. Paraphrased it goes something like this: 'Oracle is no longer a partner but a vendor whose only intent is to extract as much money from us as possible.' That most often happens when a competitor tips up with a more attractive value proposition.

Customers naturally go back to Oracle and say they have been made a better offer and either want out of the deal or get a matching offer. That's all part of the negotiating game. Oracle replies that it is OK to walk but adds a rider. If customers want to stop using one or other application then Oracle wants to relicense the remainder at higher cost. Many slink away and continue to use Oracle. A brave few say enough is enough and walk away. In one case I heard about this week, the customer pleaded with the new vendor: 'Get me out of this mess.' It will be no surprise that the vendor was more than happy to oblige.

For RIM customers, the cost of add-ons is often way out of line with the benchmarks Apple and Android are setting.

You might argue that Oracle is quite within its rights to argue as it does and given the fact few customers truly undertake adequate legal due diligence on license terms then the old saw: caveat emptor takes on fresh meaning. But the fact that customers are walking away puts lie to the perceived truth that it is just too difficult to get away from a large incumbent provider. I expect to see that trend continue to grow over time.

If that wasn't enough then to hear that Kevin Turner, Microsoft's COO taking potshots at Oracle tells me that Oracle has real troubles ahead. Check this:

Taking aim at Oracle, Tuner rhetorically asked: "How many happy Oracle customers are you talking to?"

You can write Turner off as typical of the vendor bashing that seems to have become endemic in the public domain. In the speech he gave at the recent Microsoft partner bash (sic) Oracle was only one of a clutch of vendors Turner chose to ridicule. But Microsoft taking a crack in this way seems incongruous until you realise the importance of the question.

If you believe that Turner's words, however gutter worthy, are a reflection of a broader malaise then how long will it be before we hear customers on public platforms telling it as it is?

But there are other factors in play that mirror some of what we see at RIM. Doesn't matter which way you cut Oracle's application pie, its generally available products are old. In some cases very old. They are way out of tune with the direction the market is taking. Yet still the company wants to milk its customers at 22% for annual maintenance. Oracle will come back talking Fusion but until that solution is out in the market and has been battle tested at customer sites then none of the rhetoric matters. The same rings true for RIM.

As for BGRs accusation that RIM's story is one of 'attitude, cockiness...and paranoia' need we say more about Oracle?

Some will say that I am being wholly unfair in singling out Oracle and that the same can be said of SAP, IBM, Verizon and dare I say it - Apple itself in some measure. Not quite. But then I only have to read the comments to things I say about Oracle to know that disquiet is not an aberration but very real.

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