Rest assured, Larry will create ConFusion

Whoa! Another fun-packed week of action in IT. Mr Larry, you are relentless. Another day, another Oracle takeover only this time it's Siebel.

No big surprises here, the possibilities of such a play have been muted in these pages for years. Yet it still feels a tad surreal.

It seems everyone is an Oracle customer these days from JD Edwards to PeopleSoft users . . . I See Red, I See Red, I see Red! (for those who remember New Zealand pop band Split Enz). For customers the acquisition can go two ways - it will either be an integration dream or an integration nightmare.

Ellison is of course is claiming the former. He says many Siebel implementations run on Oracle's database software and users want consistency with pricing and upgrades.

But we all know that for Oracle it's really about Fusion, but I'm betting some customers are suffering from ConFusion, particularly the new clan of Siebel users eagerly awaiting a product roadmap. I'm guessing a unified Oracle CRM product bringing together the best of its purchases is at least a year away.

SAP was unusually quite amid the fanfare and announcements that followed the Siebel buyout, but not Mr Jim Goodnight, CEO of the SAS Institute.

Describing Siebel software as a $10 million Rolodex, Goodnight said he was astounded to learn that Oracle was willing to pay almost $6 billion for Siebel.

However, the deal does make Oracle the world's largest CRM vendor effectively buying 4000 new customers and 3.4 million individual software seats.

But while Larry was busy taking over the world, Microsoft chief Bill Gates was keen to reassure enterprise users that they can be sure about Software Assurance.

The controversial licensing regime hasn't been particularly popular with users, but Microsoft is hoping to salvage the program with a few fancy add-ons.

While details of the changes were still under wraps at press time, Computerworld understands it includes technical support, training, deployment planning and a few other side benefits. With customers claiming there is little value in the program, Microsoft is keen to win over the dissidents with a bundle of new benefits.

But the bottom line is that businesses do not upgrade as often as they used to and are often on five-year upgrade cycles, not three (which is the preferred Microsoft plan). Customers want to upgrade at their leisure, not when Mr Gates tells them to. The goal of course is to change the program's negative image by cutting costs for support and deployment, and providing access to additional technology. Sources said Microsoft is planning to add desktop services to the program with plenty of freebies thrown in, depending on how much a customer spends. This includes training vouchers for Office and Windows.

Despite all the proposed promises, some customers were still sceptical and said the software giant needs to shoulder some of the blame for delaying major product releases - including Vista. But hey, does it really matter what customers think? The rampant pace of consolidation means options are shrinking, choices are limited and the customer's voice gets smaller. Hear what I'm saying? If you do, send feedback to

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