In a time when the modern IT executive stays almost locked to a Blackberry it is hard to catch them by a surprising bit of news. All the more gratifying then to catch out a few of them at the Technology@Work event in Berlin on Monday, with the news that Oracle was buying Sun.
"Really?", said in a tone of disbelief was the average answer. Some could claim to have been ready for something like it, but generally they were pretty surprised by the revelation that it was not just speculation but that, bar the usual regulatory details, it was a done deal.
Martin Fink, HP's vice president in charge of business critical systems, had the most reasoned comment to make. "We plan for various scenarios and this was one of those possible," he said. But it was not one of the most likely options, he admitted.
Fink said he could see issues though. "Sun is a place of experiment, a 'play-pen' for trying out ideas," he told ZDNet UK. "Oracle is a place where you go to make money."
It is going to be interesting to see "how that warm inclusive structure, mixes with Oracle," he said.
We will also have to wait and see what Oracle wants to do with the Sun hardware, he said. "If they decide they want to stick with the hardware then that brings a whole new competitor to the strategy," Fink said.
Franseco Serafini, the head of HP's Technology Solutions Group in EMEA was not too fazed by the prospect either and he tried to also maintain that HP, if not expecting it, thought it was a likely option.
"In a market where stock is going down there are many options for companies," he said. "What [Oracle] needs now is a plan for the next five years because everything is down and they need to be prepared for the market picking up."
Overall the HP executives thought that the news was interesting and it was not difficult to see their internal calculators trying to work out any options the move would give them. This in its own way is good news for Oracle and Sun customers. If companies like HP cannot see an immediate reason to scoff at this purchase and instead are beginning to consider the serious options, it would suggest that Oracle, in line with the company's usual practice, has at least given the competition something to think about.