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Hey HP and Oracle; the kids can hear you fighting

Trash talking your competitors is nothing new (Apple and Adobe have been at it for a while, with Google joining in on occasion), but we've had an ugly spate of it this year - from Google derailing the Future of Search event by accusing Bing of copying (and Bing's Harry Shum drily snarking back by accusing Google of click fraud) to (notice a pattern?) Google pre-empting Nokia's deal with Microsoft by repeating a Nokia insult to Siemens and Benq.

Trash talking your competitors is nothing new (Apple and Adobe have been at it for a while, with Google joining in on occasion), but we've had an ugly spate of it this year - from Google derailing the Future of Search event by accusing Bing of copying (and Bing's Harry Shum drily snarking back by accusing Google of click fraud) to (notice a pattern?) Google pre-empting Nokia's deal with Microsoft by repeating a Nokia insult to Siemens and Benq. Marc Benioff continues to be unable to get through a keynote without giving Microsoft publicity by attacking them.

And then there's the Oracle-HP spat. Larry Ellison is a past master of tech trash talk (literally; when it emerged that Oracle had hired private investigators to go through the rubbish of organizations supporting Microsoft, and possibly Microsoft itself, during its antitrust trial, he offered to ship Oracle's garbage to Redmond in the interests of full disclosure). HP's ex-CEO Mark Hurd is a personal friend of Ellison, HP's new CEO comes from Oracle foe SAP and HP's new chairman , so the string of headline-making comments wasn't unexpected (Ellison called firing Hurd the worst personnel mistake since Apple let Steve Jobs go). But the back and forth - with Oracle claiming on the eve of HP's shareholder meeting that HP is effectively conspiring with Intel to hide the demise of Itanium and that only Oracle is honest enough to admit the truth by cancelling its Itanium development, Intel claiming that Itanium is alive and well even without Windows Server and now HP gleefully pointing out that Oracle's wordwide server shipments have dropped 40% in Q4 and 31% over the last year - is getting as vicious as it is amusing.

Analyst Rob Enderle recently compared the situation to an ugly divorce. Certainly HP and Oracle are fighting over money: Oracle wants to build Oracle database systems on the Solaris OS and Sun hardware it acquired along with Java to get the kind of vertical lock-in the IBM used to enjoy and it's already cut back on source code distribution of OpenSolaris in favour of Solaris 11 Express and first abruptly cancelled then renewed HP's OEM Solaris contract on new terms. There are arguments about whether Oracle supressed a joint Oracle HP TPC-C benchmark because it made HP hardware look too good and if future versions of Oracle don’t run on Itanium HP-UX, that's a large market for HP to lose.

Frankly, fun as it is to watch the rally of insults, we'd like to see technology providers being a little less amusing and a little more mature. When HP and Microsoft fell out over PCs with Intel integrated graphics being certified as Vista Capable, heads rolled quietly, reparations were made quietly and the arguments only came out when emails were published as part of a class action brought by consumers - not in the kind of vituperative public sniping we're seeing more and more.

I often says that Microsoft should 'name and shame' companies who put out bad software and drivers if they don’t shape up. You can do that in a responsible way, without name calling and linkbait quotes. In the long run, competent should trump forthright . Oracle partners are already complaining that it's hard to deal with the company. Just about any enterprise is going to be buying technology from all these players; hearing them fight like this isn't going to make us think they'll play nice when we have a support issue that they need to work together to solve. At that point, the infighting stops being funny and becomes a liability. And that's the bottom line.

Mary Branscombe

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