Who are the software price-war soliders?

Over the past week I have been feverishly searching for evidence of the great enterprise software pricing war that is supposedly taking place right under our noses as a result of Oracle's $9.4 billion takeover bid for PeopleSoft.

If we are to believe the financial analysts, market pundits and "expert" commentators this hostile takeover attempt has unleashed a bidding war in the market for back-office corporate software.

However, the truth is I am yet to find one shred of evidence to prove customers are feasting on the lucrative spoils of this enterprise war. I am yet to unearth a single customer using the market uncertainty as a weapon to beef up their bottom line. Please, prove me wrong.

Show me a slick example of a customer that has managed to coerce these computer giants into dancing to the tune of an end user and I shall be a believer of blinding faith.

Until then I shall remain sceptical and wary of industry executives seeking sympathy from investors. Deary me, cry me a river. In recent weeks we have seen all of the major players warning investors that they are under intense pressure to cut prices.

Coincidentally, the warnings surfaced during the quarterly results reporting period in the US. Muddying the waters even further is the difficulty of knowing what these companies mean when they talk about pricing pressures, because they do not disclose details of market activity for competitive reasons.

However, all this will change when the lawsuit goes to trial on June 7 and sensitive information such as pricing strategy is likely to be made public.

Such disclosures will make this a closely watched lawsuit as the US Justice Department seeks to block the deal on antitrust grounds. The DoJ antitrust claims which argue there are too few players in the enterprise software market flies smack in the face of industry claims that competition is alive and well - complete with pricing wars. But do not forget we are talking about a market valued at around $30 billion – and that's big cash in any language. So, what is this intense pressure these vendors are having to endure?

PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway told a media conference this month the company is 'sweetening' deals rather than lowering prices while Oracle CEO Larry Ellison came right out and said the enterprise software market is under "tremendous price pressure". Even SAP CEO Henning Kagermann told analysts the company was "not immune from discounting due to pricing pressures".

This does not sound like a stagnant, uncompetitive, antitrust landscape to me.

But even the European Union antitrust regulators have issued a statement of objection to the merger along with Australia's own corporate watchdog the ACCC.

The DoJ is expected to draw on testimony from companies that say they fear being left with fewer choices and higher prices if Oracle's bid succeeds. The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 21.

So amid all the posturing, PR and penny-pinching where does the enterprise software market stand? Is there a pricing war or are customers restricted by limited choice? Tell me your version of events by e-mailing sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

PS: Forget downloading, it's time to unload. When I wasn't busy searching for a pricing war last week I was busy deleting the mountains of spam I received about the CeBit trade show. In total, I received more than 200 e-mails. I have never been a lavender-loving, rose-scented hippie that looks upon patience as a noble virtue. The truth is that I become extremely impatient when I am being terrorised by e-mail. Did I attend CeBit? No I didn't I was far too busy deleting the flood of electronic messages insisting I go.

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More about Australian Competition and Consumer CommissionCeBITDOJOraclePeopleSoftSAP Australia

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