Down, Boy!

Posted by: Sarah Lacy on January 20, 2006

I’ve noted a few times that SAP has become the PR pit bull when it comes to Oracle. Last December, when Oracle announced its quarterly earnings, SAP sent out a press release within minutes of the company’s conference call refuting claims of customer wins, market share gains and the like. I asked SAP’s Shai Agassi about this Wednesday morning at the AMR Research conference and he practically shrieked “That’s because they are lying!”

The righteous indignation continued throughout the day. That afternoon as Oracle executives prepared for their four hour event to chronicle their progress on "Fusion," SAP sent out another missive: a fact sheet with Oracle claims and SAP counter claims, complete with suggested questions for reporters and analyst names and numbers to back up SAP’s point of view. Whoa. Last I checked, coming up with questions and sources was my job.

I get the intent, but SAP appears to have crossed a line with this one. From some quick conversations that day, it seems none of the analysts knew they’d be on this list—and some were more than a bit irritated at the move and that their cell phone numbers were listed. Several remarked with surprise that brash CEO Larry Ellison’s company seems to be the one taking the highroad here. One firm that made a stink about it told me that SAP is drafting an apology letter.

Careful, SAP, you might start to look worried.

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Reader Comments

sterling

January 22, 2006 09:08 AM

This isn't meant to take aim at you, Sarah. BusinessWeek reporters generally do know that their job is to cultivate sources and ask the tough questions. Unfortunately, many in the elite media and even more in the trades have routinely failed to do either. Best case, they report what is said. Worst case, the reporting leaves the impression that what was said is true. It often isn't. Witness Enron. I have two questions: One, if this is not appropriate for SAP, for example, can you suggest what a company might do to draw attention to questionable competitive comments? And, two, did you in fact take a peek at those questions SAP provided on the outside chance there might be one you hadn't considered? Thanks.

Vinnie Mirchandani

January 22, 2006 02:31 PM

Sarah, I am ex Gartner and PwC and have watched/worked with these 2 vendors for 15 years now and both love attention - and are fixated on each other. I was at the AMR conefrence and you chose to keep asking Shai about Oracle. There is so much more going on in the market - with SaaS, open source, offshore and western BPO, verticals where neither has much penetration. If you and I (on my blog) ignore them for a change may be they will focus on other competitors and their customers rather than each other...

JadedSoul

January 22, 2006 06:48 PM

Sarah-After reading your quote of Agassi above, I looked to see if they were actually lying. To my surprise, it is Oracle that seems to be worried enough to stretch the truth. Here's what I found.

1. Gartner spanked Oracle for misquoting data in their research in an ad against SAP. They had to retract. Gartner Blog tells the story: http://ombudsman.blog.gartner.com/blog/index.php?itemid=459
2. Oracle went further this week with yet another company, Stratascope. This time they completely fabricated and attributed research to a company that did not do it. Here is the press release that proves it. http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/hollywoodreporter/index.jsp?epi-content=GENERIC&newsId=20060119005929&ndmHsc=v2*A1137243600000*B1137857586000*DgroupByDate*G3*I1041012*J2*N1000042&newsLang=en&beanID=1436034355&viewID=news_view

Kinda understandable for SAP to make a play to set the record straight, even if it WAS a little over the line. Maybe they were hoping to get the right kinds of conversation started instead of dealing with false press from Oracle.

Sarah Lacy

January 23, 2006 02:47 PM

hey guys-

sarah here. thanks for the comments. just to be clear- i totally agree that companies should call their competitors out when it comes to fabrication-- that helps me do my job. and yes, i have taken a lot of what SAP has said or sent my way very seriously and it has informed my reporting and analysis. there are a lot of claims Oracle makes that have not ended up in my stories as a result- just as not every SAP claim ends up in my stories. and let's be honest-no matter how much Oracle downplays it, this is a huge huge undertaking and the more skeptical eyes watching it, the better.
but really, SAP is the top dog here. They have almost double Oracle's marketshare in applications, post-Siebel, post-PeopleSoft, post-JD Edwards and the rest. it just seems a bit ferocious given that fact, no?

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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