PeopleSoft's Conway ducks takeover issue during keynote

Oracle's bid to take over his company must be foremost on PeopleSoft Chief Executive Officer Craig Conway's mind these days, but Conway barely touched on the drama roiling the enterprise applications sector during his Thursday morning keynote at CeBIT America, in New York.

PeopleSoft's plan to acquire J.D. Edwards & Co. "caught the interest of Wall Street, caught the interest of industry analysts, and definitely caught the interest of competitors," he said during his speech.

While Conway used his time on stage to reiterate PeopleSoft's argument that its buyout of J.D. Edwards will benefit both companies' customers and shareholders, he avoided any extended discussion of the consolidation tangle in which PeopleSoft, Oracle and J.D. Edwards are enmeshed.

Conway instead focused on the future of the enterprise applications industry, hailing a coming era of reduced complexity.

Industry leaders PeopleSoft, Oracle and SAP need to work together to ensure that their applications will integrate easily, he said. PeopleSoft is already working to ensure that its software talks with its rivals' products, Conway said, inviting SAP and Oracle to do likewise.

"This is the beginning of the end of middleware. It's the beginning of cross-functional applications, where the integration between them is not a burden on you, it's a burden on the enterprise software companies.… We should code our products so that they all work together right out of the box."

Vendors also need to reduce customers' integration and maintenance burdens, according to Conway. Ten years ago, installing a printer was a frustratingly complex task; now, it's a simple matter handled nearly automatically. Enterprise software needs to become similarly user-friendly, he said.

"In the enterprise software industry, the technology has not yet been directed toward the ownership experience. That's the problem, and that's the opportunity for PeopleSoft," he said. "Where PeopleSoft is going to get to is a software installation in one day. A complete installation of enterprise software within a few weeks, not months."

Echoing IBM's vision of autonomic computing, Conway said PeopleSoft's goal is to create software that will monitor itself and offer up real-time analytics. Supporting a number of platforms is also part of PeopleSoft's flexibility-driven strategy, he said, detailing his company's commitment to making all of its software available on Linux.

"We are convinced that Linux is now robust and reliable enough. We are supporting it aggressively, not because we are anti-Microsoft, but because it is good to have a choice. It gives you options for things like databases and Web servers," Conway said.

One audience member said Conway's remarks were convincing -- except about middleware.

"I don't think middleware is going to go away. That requires too much cooperation between competitors," said Michal Szwarc, of Piermont, New York. Szwarc is chief technology officer of Aegea, a startup working on multimedia messaging platform development.

Szwarc said he was disappointed Conway didn't discuss Oracle's ongoing attempt to take over PeopleSoft.

"I was hoping to hear more about Oracle," he said. "But I guess we'll be hearing more anyway, in the press."

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