Thursday, 4 November 2010

A question of honor


Despite the sound title for this post, unfortunately we are not talking here about the known song by Sarah Brightman, are we? Wonderful performance in Las Vegas a few years ago, highly recommended to those who might appreciate good music.

No show in Las Vegas, but a bit further westward, we are afraid… up to Oakland, as readers do probably expect.

Despite SAP accepting to pay for the attorney’s fees nothing less that $120 million, jurors still have to determine the cost of damages to be paid to the oracle. At the moment, the oracle is claiming about $2.3 billion.

Today we got former Oracle’s President Charles Phillips testifying. Two highlights from his words today.

First, we has declared that the oracle’s software licensing would have been charged to SAP for a fee ranging from $3 to $4 billion. Other sources up that figure to $5 billion, but we will stick to Reuters. Well, we are certainly no experts in software fees, but even in the case that TomorrowNow’s full plan to take customers from the oracle’s had completely succeeded, it seems quite an unreasonable figure. We are not sure at all that the oracle would have had equivalent revenue for all those customers. Still, Mr. Phillips played the role he was expected to as a former top executive at the oracle, and the figure was thrown in to justify the $2.3 billion claim, and even make it look reasonable in front of jurors.

Second, and most important in our opinion, we would like to highlight the actual words by our Testosterone Champion: "There's sort of an honor among warriors here that we can compete fiercely, but we don't take each other's software," Phillips said.

Oh, puh-leeeze...!!!!!!!

In a gentlemen’s atmosphere, Testosterone Champion’s (TC for short) words would have been very welcome, would not have drawn any attention, and would have been understood as utterly polite. But since the beginning of the friction between the two software titans, back in 2007, we would not precisely compare it to a gentlemen’s duel in the times of Louis XIV, would we? Big Mouth

Larry’s corroding and aggressive words, to begin with, followed by all the documents and evidence that has been published so far.

If we review TC’s  relatively recent past, it does not really look that the word “honor” is something he has not had to look up carefully before declaring anything today. More than 8 years in an extra-marital affair, and his move to IBM ally Infor (while all the buzz around Mark Hurd to the oracle’s and so forth) do not precisely prove he’s ever known what “honor” really means.

We do not take each other’s software, but we may take ourselves to hang around for years with women other than our own wife, or we eventually take Oracle’s confidential info and use it at Infor?

We do not really believe people are made of two personalities, one of which develops at work the other one at home. When we talk about individuals, we are basically talking of single entities that will basically behave the same way in either scenario. So if you betray your family, which should be sacred for you, are you telling me you will be able to keep loyal to a company that just pays you a salary, no matter how big, should the occasion arise? We are afraid we will not swallow that one, TC…

Maybe Apotheker was not the best choice for HP, and maybe Apotheker is not really the right witness to call, but TC is surely not the best example to preach “honor”, as Mark Hurd was not either a paradigm of the Standards of Business Conduct he preached for years at HP.


Questions? Ask Mark


The Chosen One has apparently declined to attend the oracle’s party… Too bad, we think.

People have a remarkable tendency to talk about famous individuals and celebrities, particularly if the gossip around is not related to an immaculate reputation. Mass media are made by people, and addressing people. They are not an exception. And if someone with the fame and reputation of Big Mouth Larry finger points someone in particular, that person is ultimately screwed.

HP is claiming that the Chosen One would be getting distracted from his new duties as CEO. Well, a guy born in Germany, educated in Israel, living in France, now moving to California, having been able to reach the CEO job at SAP, enjoying a team of executive assistants and backed by smart people leading the different businesses HP is made of, speaking five languages (one of them German, another one Hebrew, which is written “backwards”) can live with that for a few weeks, we think.

HP’s argument sounds weak. And a poor defense is sometimes equivalent to a strong offensive from the enemy. A weak defense is just providing ammunition to the Pontifex Maximus. Not showing up defaults to the Pontifex being right, and unwillingness to assume responsibilities after having left his former employer. We agree the Pontifex is not really proving elegant at all, and his style matches, in our opinion, much more the one you see in Gangs of New York than an educated discussion. But precisely for that, we would not advise to give a poor excuse to stay off.

If the Chosen One is innocent, he should actually leverage the opportunity to demonstrate his innocence, particularly in a case like this one, where Big Mouth Larry is providing a hell lot of free publicity.

Standing up as well can have the total opposite effect than the one insistently sought by the Pontifex Maximus: Strong leadership and principles. Something that, by the way, HP badly needs. If the Chosen One wants to show he cares for his new company, he should think of his reputation as an asset he is not the sole and single owner of. His reputation and his style is as well an asset of whatever company he works for in a given point in time.

Keeping the cleanest possible reputation is, therefore, something he accepted owing to his employer and his fellow employees since the moment he signed his contract and assumed responsibility. Step up, Léo. You are obliged to do so to yourself, your family, your business partners, your customers and, of course, the employees you lead. In case you had questions, Léo, you can always give Mark Hurd a call about the topic.