Oracle fields questions from PeopleSoft users

An Oracle executive fielded a salvo of questions purportedly from PeopleSoft users on Thursday. Many wanted to know about support for PeopleSoft products should Oracle's hostile bid for the rival software maker succeed.

As part of its public relations campaign to support its takeover attempt, Oracle held a conference call and audio webcast meant for PeopleSoft users. Executive Vice President Chuck Phillips took questions via the Web or by e-mail from over 700 participants, an Oracle spokeswoman said.

Support, product updates and pricing were the topic of many questions. Each time Phillips assured customers that Oracle would keep to PeopleSoft's standards or exceed those and honor existing contracts.

Phillips repeated that Oracle will support PeopleSoft 8 for at least ten years and extend support for PeopleSoft 7 for at least two years beyond the date PeopleSoft said it would end support. Also, updates to the PeopleSoft products will come in regular cycles and Oracle has no immediate plans to change pricing for PeopleSoft products, he said.

"We don't want PeopleSoft customers impacted in any way in a negative way," Phillips said. "The PeopleSoft customers should feel good that we made this so public. We think we're on the hook."

Marketing is really the only part of PeopleSoft that Oracle will axe, according to Phillips. The products will still be sold to whoever wants to buy them and existing users will be able to purchase additional modules and seats, he said.

Oracle is after PeopleSoft's customers for their support and maintenance dollars. The Redwood Shores, California, vendor wants the bulk of its revenue to come from those contracts that basically guarantee cash flow instead of having to rely on new license sales.

"We would love to get to the point where the bulk of our revenue is maintenance and support and not license sales," Phillips said. "The investment that we are making (in PeopleSoft) is for existing customers to create that recurring revenue ... If we would do anything crazy on support we would pay for that in terms of retention rate."

Overall, Phillips reiterated Oracle's commitment to the PeopleSoft bid. "We're in it for the long haul," he said. Phillips was recently recruited to Oracle after years on Wall Street as an analyst covering enterprise software and is one of Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison's new proteges.

Oracle launched a $5.1 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft in early June, days after PeopleSoft said it would buy J.D. Edwards & Co. Oracle later sweetened its bid to $6.3 billion. PeopleSoft hopes to close its acquisition of J.D. Edwards Friday, potentially complicating Oracle's bid for PeopleSoft.

Oracle plans to do more outreach to PeopleSoft customers, including more teleconferences and webconferences, the company said.

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