Saturday, 30 October 2010

Mark Hurd’s blank cheque


We have already written about the fondness that the Pontifex Maximus at the oracle has of Chinese philosopher Sun-Tzu and his works “The Art of War”.

There is a wonderful episode describing the three maxims Sun applied for the new style of war at that time, almost 3,000 years ago.

Sun was looking for a job from the King of Wu, Ho-Lu, who requested Sun to demo his theories… using women for a change.

180 concubines were ordered into the room where the King and Sun were. Sun divided them in two groups, appointed the King’s two favorites as officers and explained all that about “left face”, “right face”, and so forth. He barked an order, and… nothing happened.

Calmly turning back to the sovereign, who was probably amused with the show, Sun said: “If instructions are not clear, it is the commander who is at fault”.

Sun explained the stuff all over again. And barked his orders for the second time. Once more, nothing happened.

Calmly turning back to the sovereign, who was starting to get a bit puzzled about what was going on, Sun sated: “If orders are clear, but not carried out, it is the officers fault.” And he ordered the concubine-officers’ heads off.

Then the King started protesting, to what Sun gave his third maxim: “A commander in the field is not always bound by his sovereign’s orders”. And the heads were effectively off.

Sun appointed then new officers, and this time the concubines formations worked like a Swiss watch.

Sun got the job…If we recall the last job given by the Pontifex Maximus at the oracle, Mark Hurd has probably got a sort of blank cheque. After all, he already proved at HP he knew how to tame flocks, herds or crowds, did he not?

Incidentally, for those who recall the oracle’s hardware proposition, we think that “Tzu” does not mean “Microsystems” in Chinese.

Running on quicksand


Probably not used to getting a “no” as an answer, The Pontifex Maximus as the oracle must be feeling a little frustrated this weekend. No delay in the trial, as much as no gag order.

Symbolic victory, this denial of silence requested by SAP lawyers indeed, as the Pontifex has already circulated all the baffling he has been able to devise. Still a victory, however, and it’s likely he will try to maximize this. We think we will still hear from him.

Phyllis Hamilton, the judge in charge of this affair, has been very clear. Denying both requests, gag order from SAP and trial delay from the oracle, is just stating that in the courtroom, she is the boss, and she will not tolerate any interference with procedures and formalities. Despite the way any of the parties want to see the case, facts just show that this case is several years old, and all the buzz around Mark Hurd being dismissed by HP and afterwards being hired by the oracle, and the noise about Léo Apotheker being appointed new CEO at HP has nothing to do with the real dispute between the Oracle and the German SAP AG. And this is particularly true given the latter already admitted guilt about improper behavior, and accepted paying compensation to the former.

As a matter of fact, the trial is not about guilt or innocence, but more on determining the real reach of the damage made to the oracle, despite the efforts of the Pontifex Maximus to tweak the case and turn it into a personal evaluation of Léo Apotheker.

SAP has nothing to lose, but a one timer hit in their financials that they probably have already accrued for. And the oracle’s frustration comes mainly from not having the opportunity to get side-benefit from discrediting people at management positions in their business rivals. which is not the best way to reinforce the so much leading position the oracle is looking for in the enterprise business world.

So still tied they are we believe. Oracle 2 – SAP 2 as of now, in our opinion.

Good start for Justice.

And while Justice determines the outcome of this trial, still there could be a winner out of this tie. No Oracle, no SAP, but HP, who will manage to remain out of this story, and eventually might get some reinforcement in what could be a somewhat natural alliance with SAP. Ironically, this could ultimately depend on the oracle, as the reinforcement would be directly proportional to the level of aggressiveness and hostility in the oracle’s approach to the case.

Get the money and silently run, Pontifex. Every time you open that big mouth of yours you put the dollars at risk, and you push one more inch closer SAP and HP. Beating SAP is more about customers, revenue, added value and superior products. Your mouth delivers words, not dollars. Winning the America’s Cup with the fastest boat does not mean you can win a race on quicksand.