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Soft-War of Words

Posted by: Sarah Lacy on December 21, 2005

There’s an interesting post on Gartner’s Ombudsman’s blog about the Oracle ads running in the Wall Street Journal. Gartner says the research Oracle cites is grossly taken out of context, rendering it inaccurate.

While this doesn’t reflect well on Oracle, don’t think they’re alone.

I have never seen as much banding about of out of context third party research as I have covering the application wars in the last year. Siebel and SAP have both claimed the number one slot in CRM for more than a year and now Oracle and SAP are both claiming to be the number one application vendor in North America. Guess what? You can slice and dice revenues and ways you record them in enough ways that all of these claims can be supported. But where does that get customer?

Will we get to a point where we can't trust any third party research? Some are already there. Such claims are almost becoming as meaningless as "leading provider" and "world class team." If it's getting hard for me to distill and I spend all my time covering software, imagine a company trying to decide on an ERP vendor.

No surprise, things are getting particularly nasty between SAP and Oracle and both companies accuse the other of being the ones to stretch the truth. This war of words escalated to a new level on Dec. 15 when Oracle reported earnings. Within the hour SAP emailed reporters a point-by-point rebuttal of all the claims Oracle had made that SAP deemed false. And many customers who use both Oracle and SAP software are loathe to get in the middle of it, making claims about who-stole-what-deal-from-whom a battle of he said, she said.

It's a break from much of the "co-opetition" that goes on in much the software world and several industry watchers I've talked to in the last few weeks have been flummoxed. One SAP executive recently made this point to me, contrasting the deterioration in their relationship with Oracle to their "adult" relationship with Microsoft. They partner and they compete, but not this out in the open, with gloves off, he said. Remember, a good number of SAP's applications run on Oracle databases.

Ultimately, it's up to the research groups to make sure they're not being misrepresented and they need to call them out. If software vendors are taking things out of context it's wrong. But if the research companies allow it to continue that's far worse.

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