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Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Software Feud Ends, At Least For Today

Two of the biggest egos in the technology industry have buried the hatchet.

Larry Ellison of Oracle and Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, a onetime mentor and his protégé who became sometimes-testy rivals, flattered one another for half an hour Thursday in a joint teleconference with securities analysts and reporters.

Officially, the purpose of the call was to explain how Salesforce.com would now buy more Oracle products, how Oracle would now make its dtabase software and applications work better with Salesforce’s cloud-based software, and how customers would benefit from more integration at lower cost. Both companies are jockeying for position against companies like IBM and Amazon.com in a world where data is increasingly going mobile and moving from customer-owned computers to the cloud.

But the real point seemed to be for the longtime antagonists to show public affection after years of not-always-friendly competition.

“Larry has articulated these market transitions with more clairvoyance than anyone I know,” said Mr. Benioff, who had worked for ! Mr. Ellison at Oracle before leaving to found Salesforce. “By Larry and I coming together, a door has come open that lets us go into the future.”

Mr. Ellison, who co-founded Oracle and built it into one of the most valuable software companies in the world, offered his own praise for what Mr. Benioff has accomplished.

“Marc has never once turned to me to drum up leads for Salesforce.com,” Mr. Ellison said in response to a question about whether Oracle would now send customers to its rival. “I’m sure they are better at that than we are.”

Mr. Ellison, who subscribes to the philosophy of making employees at his company “eat their own dog food” by using Oracle products, noted that almost every company acquired by Oracle used Salesforce software. Now they will get to keep using it, become in-house testers for the product integration between the two companies.

The whole news conference had a surreal, Alphonse-and-Gaston quality, with both men going over the top in their grciousness. One reporter asked if the new partnership meant the pair would now stop taking potshots at each other.

“I certainly hope it’s not the end of the fun,” Mr. Benioff said. “Hopefully it will be the end of us getting too revved up at times.”

Let’s hope not. The world of business software doesn’t have too much excitement in it, and Mr. Benioff and Mr. Ellison are two of the best at peddling their wares and entertaining their audience.