SAN FRANCISCO (07/17/2000) - If such a thing is possible, U.S. database, applications and tools vendor Oracle Corp. is currently even more in the spotlight than usual. The extra attention follows the recent departure of its number-two man and the company's moves in introducing new licensing and support arrangements.
IDG News Service met with Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior vice president of marketing, Monday to talk over key user issues such as pricing and support, as well as recent events including the seemingly abrupt departure of the company's Chief Operating Officer and President Ray Lane.
Jarvis was in San Francisco for the latest stop on Oracle's 29-city worldwide developers conference, iDevelop 2000.
IDG News Service (IDGNS): On this current developer conference tour, what questions do developers most commonly ask you? Any questions or concerns from Oracle developers about Oracle COO Ray Lane leaving the company?
Jarvis: No one's asked about Ray. They're asking about Java, XML (Extensible Markup Language) and personalization. Developers are on Larry's side of the house -- he's the development, technical guy. It's not as if Ray's departure was a surprise, it was inevitable that at some point he would retire. In the bigger picture, we've changed the company quite dramatically in preparation for that (Lane's departure). The company is stronger than it's ever been.
IDGNS: But hadn't Oracle long been seen as a two-man team, with Ray managing the day-to-day operations and Larry being the visionary?
Jarvis: Larry managed day-to-day all the time. Larry was involved in everything anyway. It's not as if a void needs to be filled. There was a huge amount of cross-pollination between them in terms of what they did. Oracle isn't just Ray and Larry, but a whole team of talented people.
IDGNS: What about the new licensing models that Oracle and other vendors are now offering? According to analysts, some of the new term licenses are more expensive than the old perpetual licenses -- can this be good news for users?
Jarvis: Customers aren't forced to change their licenses, they can continue to use existing contracts and are not penalized in any way for doing so. But we also offer the (new) much simpler licensing with lower prices. Any new deals will be based on our new licenses.
If you go back a year with Oracle, you'll see we used to have different prices in every country, now there's one price. Companies that were truly global found our pricing and licensing extremely obscure. For instance, our products in Europe used to be more expensive than in the U.S.
IDGNS: How about Oracle's moving of its technical support to the Web and away from phones? Is that really benefiting users?
Jarvis: It saves us a lot of money and has advantages for customers. We estimate that if you call up a support person on the phone, 20 percent of all IT problems will be solved without needing any callback. However, with the Web, you fill in the details about your problem yourself, and we estimate that 40 percent of all problems are solved there and then. If they're not solved, customer support will call you.
It's like going to get your car fixed. You don't talk to the mechanic who's going to fix it, you talk to a supervisor. They write down your problem and then go and tell the mechanic. There's a third party involved between you and your problem.
If you call Oracle support, you have to wait 45 minutes; on the Web, it's no time, it's instant. We're increasing the quality of support and making it cheaper. But if people still want to talk to someone, they can, the support will just be more expensive.
IDGNS: Turning to the latest release of Oracle Applications, version 11i, how much of Oracle internally is running on 11i?
Jarvis: Very little, we're installing it right now and it should be live by the end of the year. Marketing will move to 11i in September. The challenge is not installing 11i, it's going from having 72 HR (human resources) databases to having one which means consolidating all the servers. We're down to four now and our goal is one. We're also taking 70 financial reporting systems and moving slowly to one system.
With HR, it's a matter of taking all the individual European systems, moving the computers all to one place and merging all the data together into one system. So, we now have one HR system in Europe, one in the Americas, one in Asia-Pacific, and one in Japan. Then, we'll put those computers on a plane to Redwood Shores (California) and do the same (merging) again.
IDGNS: What regional differentiation do you notice in Oracle's markets worldwide?
Jarvis: There's no differences in revenue, but there is in trends. For instance, mobile access is a lot hotter in Europe than it is here. Applications worldwide are hot.
Previously this year, we did a tour of the world with our executive forum and we thought that Latin America was about two years behind the U.S. in IT adoption, but we found out it's about two minutes behind. Asia-Pacific is about six months behind the U.S. and Europe is way back, about a year behind.
Europe needs to step up and move to adopt (new technology) faster otherwise U.S. companies will buy up European companies. Europe is treating the Internet as a medium rather than a business. It's the cynical European attitude, they don't realize there's a massive shift in the industry and they don't realize how significant it is. The Europeans aren't learning from the mistakes the U.S. made. B2C (business-to-consumer) is no longer the center of gravity.
IDGNS: Perhaps the failure of British dot-com Boo.com Inc. has made some European companies cautious about the Web?
Jarvis: Compare Boo.com to Yahoo. Yahoo's model is to deliver (Web) pages as fast as possible, Boo's model was to offer an incredibly rich multimedia experience, but the European networks aren't capable of delivering that experience.
Why Latin America is hot is that they put in their communications structure late, so they're using more modern technology. The U.S. is way behind in the adoption of mobile technology and there will be mistakes along the way. Have you ever tried using a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) phone? It's absolutely horrible. Anyone who believes that's the future is seriously mistaken. You need a keyboard.
The phone will not be the be-all-and-end-all. Convergence around cell phones is not going to happen. A washing machine is never going to become a dryer, you buy them separately. The same with fax, photocopier and printer -- they're three separate units. The most popular phones are extremely small; you'd never get a keyboard on them.
This is the answer. (Jarvis holds up a BlackBerry wireless e-mail two-way pager from Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) which includes a miniature keyboard.) The next release of Blackberry later this year will come with a phone included.
Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at +1-650-506-7000 or via the Internet at http://www.oracle.com/.