Oracle Open World 2010: confusion or clarity?

Hurd to Oracle? Really - then what about Catz and Philips? Who knows? None of us and that is for sure. Regardless, it makes for light entertainment in the run up to OOW.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

In two weeks' time, hordes of developers, customers, media and analysts will descend on Oracle Open World. Until this morning, my thoughts centered on the extent to which Oracle will deliver the much promised Fusion Apps. More of that in another post. Instead my mind is turning to broader issues.

Larry Dignan picks up the WSJ story that Mark Hurd, recently ousted from the CEO role at HP, is in talks to join Oracle:

It’s unclear what exactly Hurd would do, but as I noted previously it would make sense to put the former HP chief in charge of Oracle’s hardware business and then make him CEO at some later date. In a nutshell, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would have an instant succession plan.

Larry Dignan adds a slew of reasons why this makes sense for Oracle. Colleague Frank Scavo thinks it makes sense. I can't see it but then nothing would surprise me regarding Oracle.

Earlier in the year, speculation was rife that Oracle co-president Charles Phillips was about to bolt for the top slot at CA only to find that avenue blocked by unfortunate billboard adverts appearing in Times Square. All sorts of speculation emerged, not least that Ellison needed to keep Phillips to oversee the Sun integration albeit Safra Cataz, Phillips co-President oversaw the deal. A few days ago, CIO.com added more fuel to the notion of Phillips leaving, noting that he has dropped responsibilities for the global business units. While Oracle confirmed the change, it said:

...there was no truth to the "speculation" that Phillips is leaving.

In the same article, the author speculated that Hurd could fill Phillips shoes if the latter did make an exit.

As the rumor mill continues to turn other speculation emerged that Safra Catz might take the HP top spot. I don't see that either. Does HP need more accounting? Again, nothing is impossible. Yesterday, Barrons thought that Hurd's appointment (albeit they see him in the CEO role now) would send Catz out the door:

The rubs are that Ellison hasn't indicated any desire to step aside and that he has an able successor in place: co-president Safra Katz. Cowen managing director Peter Goldmacher thinks that it's unlikely that Hurd will join Oracle because that would cause Katz to leave—something, Goldmacher surmises, that Ellison wouldn't want. "Safra and Mark are both proven technology executives. Safra has done an excellent job at Oracle, and there's no reason in upsetting the current order by bringing in Mark Hurd," Goldmacher posits.

Confused? You should be! But that's not the end of it.

In a companion piece to Larry Dignan's original speculation about a Hurd placement at Oracle, Jason Hiner noted that Hurd's employee approval ratings while at HP were awful. Ellison on the other hand enjoyed 78% employee approval ratings. My view at the time was that discontent among HP employees was the real reason behind Hurd's departure. Would Ellison be prepared to take the risk of history repeating itself?

And then we have OOW. Ann Livermore, EVP HP enterprise business is slated to keynote during the opening session which includes Ellison and Catz, If Hurd joins then what happens to that arrangement? Whatever happens, the run-up to OOW has taken on a fresh frisson. I was thinking that Oracle runs the risk of disappointing customers with relatively limited Fusion releases. Now it could easily divert attention by announcing some spectacular changes to the top bench. Add-in more speculation about potential Oracle acquisitions and you have the making of a regular Wall Street pot boiler.

Hang on, we're not done. Jeff Nolan says:

Hurd is in talks with Oracle, and from what I hear Chuck Phillips is on his way to HP… really, can’t make this stuff up.

So whomever is speculating about Catz is wrong? Or is it all wild speculation anyway given Oracle has been careful to manage expectations around any potential Hurd appointment? Those of us in the cheap seats will have to wait see. I'm going to take a chill pill in the hope it will stop my head spinning.

Editorial standards