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Everyone Else Must Fail 216

Posted by timothy
from the everyone's-gonna-die dept.
ElectricAnt writes "First of all, I should mention that this book is complementary to Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle reviewed earlier here. Everyone Else Must Fail has not been approved, endorsed or edited by Oracle or Larry Ellison, so it could be that many things were said out loud for the first time. Karen Southwick is a journalist who has covered many technology subjects, and written three previous books about Silicon Valley's business side. She wrote this book, at least partially, based on the interviews with former Oracle executives who were either fired by Larry (as Ray Lane) or left Oracle to start their own business (Tom Siebel)." Read on for the rest of ElectricAnt's review.
Everyone Else Must Fail: The Unvarnished Truth About Oracle and Larry Ellison
author Karen Southwick
pages 320
publisher Crown Business
rating 6/10
reviewer ElectricAnt
ISBN 0609610694
summary The way you shouldn't run your business
My first impression was that this book was a former employee's act of revenge against the big bully boss, but as you read along you see that Southwick kept a neutral point of view, presenting only the facts without jumping to the conclusions.

As you would expect, there is more business than technology in the book, not to say that this is bad, but you'll find only the top slice of Oracle's business: sales, marketing, consulting etc. You won't find many discussions on how, why and which technology has been created or adopted by Oracle -- it's mostly how this technology has been sold to customers, and what happened afterwards.

Southwick covers nearly all of Oracle's history, starting with 1979 and up to mid-summer 2003 when Oracle launched its campaign to acquire PeopleSoft. The book's starts with a quote attributed to Genghis Khan ("It is not sufficient that I succeed. Everyone else must fail.") which Larry Ellison obviously likes and uses quite often. After a start like that, it's all downhill from there.

Larry Ellison is portrayed as a natural leader: visionary, extraordinary productive and effective. At the same time, he is the "supreme dictator," "extreme narcissist," "most controversial CEO," all this is combined to make "a grandiose, deeply flawed, yet extraordinary, human being." My favorite quote in this book belongs to Rich Hagberg (a management consultant). When he drives by Oracle's towers, he says, "I tell my kids that's where Darth Vader lives." This is not the book's only harsh definition of Ellison. If Softwar is an "intimate" portrait of Larry Ellison then Everyone Else Must Fail is definitely an "intimidating" portrait of him.

Oracle's culture is defined as "brutal, draining, and filled with potential pitfalls." The relationship between Larry and his subordinates, and what's equally important, with Oracles customers (the Oracle mindset is described as "use 'em and dump 'em.") Everyone is expendable, success must be achieved by all means, and everything is measured by how useful a person is to help Ellison implement his vision.

The list of dumped Oracle executives includes Tom Siebel of Siebel, Craig Conway of PeopleSoft, Greg Brady of i2 Technologies, Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com, Gray Bloom of Veritas, the list goes on and on. As soon as Larry Ellison feels that an executive gains popularity with customers, employees, and can, potentially, outplace him, he will find a reason to get rid of that person. Due to Ellison's personal "insecurity" to deliver the news face-to-face, many of those execs were fired "remotely," usually over the phone, and while on vacation. Coincidentally, almost all of them were fired just before the next portion of their stock options vested. Some of the discharged workers filed wrongful termination suits, but few of them won: none of them have talked to Larry since.

Only Bob Miner, Oracle's co-founder, top developer of Oracle's DB, and later head of development, is shown as a friend. Unfortunately, Bob Miner died in 1994 of lung cancer and Larry was left in the void. Over the last three years, Ellison fired all key members of his management team and concentrated all power in his own hands, leaving Oracle without much a needed counterbalance to Ellison's whimsical desires. With increased competition from IBM and Microsoft, unhappy customers, and flawed leadership, Karen Southwick questions the future of Oracle but leaves the question open.

The customers of Oracle DB were technology experts and didn't mind the need to fiddle with the product until they got it working; the real problems started when Oracle began to release ERP and CRM applications. These applications use the technology and don't invent it. In Ellison's eyes, though, the technology is "cool"; he likes to create technology and respects engineers, he doesn't like to perfect it. If something goes wrong with the product, the company attitude seems to be that it's because customers did something stupid.

I found the comparison between Oracle, Microsoft and IBM very interesting: both Oracle and Microsoft are seen as "technology" companies, both have core technologies (database and operating system) and everything else revolves around them, "you better buy everything from us or you're out." It's a sink-or-swim approach.

By contrast, IBM has marketed itself as a "solution" company that brings whatever customer asks for, the best-of-breed approach. However, in positioning .NET as an enterprise system, Microsoft makes one step forward to the solution approach. Oracle still hasn't make any steps in that direction.

A few things in the book are very entertaining -- for example, the story of Rick Bennett, who single-handedly served Oracle as an advertising agency from 1984 to 1990, the most aggressive ads Oracle ever ran were created by him. When Ingres was acquired by ASK Computer Systems Oracle ran a full page ad: "WE KICK ASK." This and some other examples of Oracle's ads from that era can be found on Bennett's website.

If you're looking for a recipe how to piss off your customers, screw up your employees, alienate your partners this book is for you: it has a detailed description how to achieve all that based on Larry Ellison's extensive experience.


You can purchase Everyone Else Must Fail: The Unvarnished Truth About Oracle and Larry Ellison from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to submit a review for consideration, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Everyone Else Must Fail

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  • Microsoft too (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deanj (519759)
    Not that this should be a great surprise to anyone, but Microsoft acts this way too. It seems that they think that ANYTHING that has any computing power is their territory, and they're out to claim it. Cell phones, embedded systems, and of course ALL computers.

    Just wish they'd just concentrate (and fix) the damn OS and it's GUI.
    • Re:Microsoft too (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:55PM (#7767023) Homepage Journal
      Well, Microsoft is only ruthless to its competitors. From the sounds of it, Ellison is ruthless to the people who work for him. Microsoft is strategy, Ellison is just plain psycho. Think of the villian in the movies who cuts down his own henchmen with a machine gun to make a point.

      Granted all companies generally regard customers as an annoyance. The feeling is mutual.

      • Re:Microsoft too (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DAldredge (2353)
        Microsoft is/was ruthless to contractors that work/worked for them. Just look how they are/were treated.
        • One of the point of hiring contractors is that they don't have the same rights... and are therefore good abuse targets. You can't blame Microsoft for that ;) ... well, maybe a little.

          Anyways, the point is that Microsoft is far better at customer care, employee relations, and those other soft skills than this book tells us Oracle is. I have no reason to dispute that either.

      • Re:Microsoft too (Score:5, Interesting)

        by t0ny (590331) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:19PM (#7767300)
        I know people who work for Microsoft. They have nothing but good things to say about the work environment, pretty much to the point where they couldnt envision working for another company.

        On another note, the only thing I see in the press regarding Oracle is Ellison whining about Microsoft, or some other non-technical related subject. The man is just a troll, plain and simple. He needs to focus on making his product better, rather than saying how bad their competitors are. The title "Everyone Else Must Fail" is a very good summation of the attitude Ive seen from Ellison.

        Compare this with things Gates says in the press- he is always looking at better ways of applying technology, ways to make things easier, etc. He (correctly, IMO) wants computing a simple human experience, something people dont need five years of experience to do. Much like using a hammer or screwdriver: an experienced carpenter will still be able to use the tools more effectively, but a newbie can still drive a nail or screw into a wall with the same tools.

        Note to self: prepare to be modded down for saying something good about Microsoft.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Would have modded up except for the whiny comment about preparing to be modded down.
        • Re:Microsoft too (Score:4, Insightful)

          by blamanj (253811) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:57PM (#7767816)
          OK, you we're believable and reasonable up until the point where you started talking about how much Gates is a better representative of his company.

          If you read any of his anti-trust testminony it's clear he's simply lying and everyone knows it, it just that most of it happens to be in that legal gray area that the Reagan Iran/Contra team exploited so well, "I don't recall."

          OTOH, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation _is_ doing some very nice stuff, and I don't think that Ellison can compare at all.
        • I know several people who worked for microsoft (and only one of them a contractor). I'd also like to point out that these friends are rather exclusive of each other and worked in separate departments. They all left the company (except for the one that works overseas) within 5 years due to a hostile environment. Various complaints of "insane work hours: microsoft is your life" to misogynistic behavior of some managers and co-workers.

          There are people who are going to fit right in to some environments and
        • "Compare this with things Gates says in the press- he is always looking at better ways of applying technology, ways to make things easier, etc. He (correctly, IMO) wants computing a simple human experience, something people don't need five years of experience to do."

          Correct. Microsoft wants its products to be easy to use and helpful, good for them. But God help you if you get in their way or have an alternative view as to what makes a product good. Because then you get to watch this "we just want to help"
        • Re:Microsoft too (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bit01 (644603)

          Of course M$'s employees are treated well. The amount of money M$ receives per employee is extraordinary, probably the highest in the world. It is being paid $35,000,000,000+/year for a few programs it largely wrote more than a decade ago.

          ---

          It is wrong that an intellectual property (IP) creator should not be rewarded for their work. It is equally wrong that an IP creator should be rewarded too many times for the one piece of work, for exactly the same reasons. Reform IP law and curtail business exce

      • Re:Microsoft too (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cavemanf16 (303184)
        "Microsoft is strategy, Ellison is just plain psycho. Think of the villian in the movies who cuts down his own henchmen with a machine gun to make a point."

        Read any of the Chinese classic military works, such as "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu. You'll find that hacking off the head of an insurgent who threatens to throw the army/citizenry/etc. into a panic can be an effective tool to keep the entire rest of the army following orders.

        Oracle and Microsoft are just sacrificing a few lambs now and then to keep t
        • But you'll also notice in those works that a smaller army can easily defeat a numerically superior and more powerful army through smarter use of the resources at their disposal. Much like how open source software methodologies have been cutting into Microsoft and Oracle more and more for the past 10 years.

          I'd rather think that the advantege of OSS was the vastly bigger army, even if loosely coordinated, and sometimes fracticious.

          Chhers,
        • Re:Microsoft too (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kin_korn_karn (466864)
          Business != military.
          It's this line of thinking that leads to things like example firings and predatory practices. You don't just want to make more money than Competitor X, you want to CRUSH Competitor X.

          When Sun Tzu started being taught in MBA classes was when western civilization started to decline.
        • As a student of Taoism, with a particular interest in the Art of War, I can say that Sun Tsu never stated that you will beat a larger foe with a smaller army. That's some fluff from Colenel Santiago in Alpha Centari.

          Another pertinant quote from the Art of War itself, in Chapter III (Attack by Strategim):

          In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to des

    • It seems that they think that ANYTHING that has any computing power is their territory, and they're out to claim it. Cell phones, embedded systems, and of course ALL computers.

      What would Bill Gates look like crossed with Rich Uncle Pennybags (aka the Monopoly Guy)? Remember, the Monopoly tagline is "Own it all"

      See what I am talking about over here, on a T-shirt [cafepress.com]. (and don't pay attention to that link to "poundingsand.com", it used to be my URL, but was hijacked. :(

    • Not that this should be a great surprise to anyone, but Microsoft acts this way too.
      Microsoft has a good reputation for treating their employes well. Executives are well compensated, and the geeks get to have a lot of fun. Also, the level of sh!t they put their customers through is merely par for the course.

      The thing that struck me about this Oracle book review was the "you better buy everything from us or you're out" quote. That is SO not the way to do business anymore. No one wants to be locked dow
  • Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by mongbot (671347) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:45PM (#7766910)
    If you're looking for a recipe how to piss off your customers, screw up your employees, alienate your partners this book is for you: it has a detailed description how to achieve all that based on Larry Ellison's extensive experience. No thanks. I think I'll wait for Crazy as a Sh*thouse Rat: The Darl McBride Story.
    • Re:Heh (Score:3, Funny)

      by kaan (88626)
      No thanks. I think I'll wait for Crazy as a Sh*thouse Rat: The Darl McBride Story.

      Well who's gonna be crazier - Darl for living on another planet, or you for shelling out $699 to buy a copy of The Darl McBride Story?

      Yeah, I'm speculating on the price, but prior experience suggests that $699 would be more or less correct for something "produced" by SCO...
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by El_Ge_Ex (218107) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:45PM (#7766913) Journal
    "I tell my kids that's where Darth Vader lives."

    Wouldn't that be Redmond?

    (sorry, too easy)

    -B
    • by scrytch (9198)
      "I tell my kids that's where Darth Vader lives."

      Wouldn't that be the Death Star? [att.com]
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Funny)

      by sharkey (16670)
      Wouldn't that be Redmond?

      You're thinking of Sauron.

      One OS to rule them all, one OS to bind them.
      One OS to bring them all, and in the darkness grind them.
      In the land of Redmond where the shadows lie...

    • I thought that would be Atlanta (CNN), Africa (the Lion King), or Charleston (Verizon).
    • You haven't seen the two.

      Microsoft HQ is a rather bland industrial park.

      Oracle HQ [www.djy.us] is a set of large cylindrical glass towers with "ORACLE" in giant illuminated letters on top. It's located in an open area, with no other large buildings nearby, clearly visible from a major freeway and facing a huge reflecting pool. It looks like the HQ of a Bond villain. By intent.

  • What ever became of that? Much of my work back in the day used to consist of various mods and extensions to ASK's MANMAN product -- FORTRAN-66, baby! I hated their product, though -- it was, as we used to say, fugly -- even for F-66.
    • What ever became of that?

      Ask went bust and sold Ingres to Computer Associates. It was rebranded CA-OpenIngres. Ingres used to be a great product, back in the day when the big 4 were Oracle, Ingres, Informix and Sybase. Now, we have only Sybase and Oracle. Ingres seems to have dropped off of the radar and informix was acquired by IBM last year.
  • by fastdecade (179638) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:47PM (#7766934)
    It must be said the previous book, at least according to the publisher's claims, wasn't just a spew of marketing from Oracle ---- it was supposed to be written independently, with Ellison having the right only to add footnotes, and NOT to modify the text.

    That's the theory anyway. Who knows what sort of political games go on in actually agreeing to get a deal like this --- is there an unwritten rule that the author must play ball? Haven't read either, so I'm not sure ...
  • Damn CEO's (Score:4, Funny)

    by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:52PM (#7766987) Homepage Journal
    Ack, I have finally found one that is more of an axe murderer than the other's I've worked for. Yippie and pass the pink slips.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:54PM (#7767005)
    forget Larry for a second. For a CEO to succeed, does it require that person to be a dictator?
  • by clifgriffin (676199) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:56PM (#7767033) Homepage
    I am nobody...therefore....

  • What do you expect? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:57PM (#7767040)
    Do you expect a succesful CEO in a cut-throat business to be a cheerful guy? Ellison is paranoid (San Jose airport out to get me), arrogant (we're going to take on Microsoft) and often clumsy (Peoplesoft), but he is also still the king of database software (for the time being).

    The only thing that separates Larry from the other ones is the neato cars he buys for Oracle employees who happen to be his ex-girlfriend.

    • by DAldredge (2353)
      The CEO of Chick-Fil-A, a > 1 Billion USD company, is paranoid, aragant, nor does he do anything to earn a buck.
      • Um, do you mean he is NOT paranoid, arrogant, etc?

        Chick-fil-a sells what are probably the best chicken nuggets in the business, but whenever I feel a deep craving for them, it's Sunday and they're not open!

        I can admire his consistency to sticking to principles, though. I'm sure that's what keeps him sane.

        D
    • by BWJones (18351) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:32PM (#7767473) Homepage Journal
      Do you expect a succesful CEO in a cut-throat business to be a cheerful guy? Ellison is paranoid (San Jose airport out to get me), arrogant (we're going to take on Microsoft) and often clumsy (Peoplesoft), but he is also still the king of database software (for the time being).

      I cannot claim to know him well, but I have met him once and found him to be intelligent, well spoken, and......rather cheerful.

      Look, becoming the CEO of the worlds second largest software company is bound to tick a few folks off here and there and being worth as much money as that also tends to isolate one from certain realities that result in a few eccentricities. The San Jose airport thing applies to everyone and I am sure he is wealthy enough to pay the fines that result from flying in past certain hours. The Microsoft thing applies to everyone in software who is not Microsoft (since Microsoft apparently wants to compete with everyone else), and the Peoplesoft thing is simply product diversification. If Oracle could not be all things to all people, other companies are bound to spring up to fill needs.

  • If he needs a hobby (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:57PM (#7767048) Journal
    In Ellison's eyes, though, the technology is "cool"; he likes to create technology and respects engineers, he doesn't like to perfect it. If something goes wrong with the product, the company attitude seems to be that it's because customers did something stupid.

    It sounds like he'd fit in quite nicely in the open-source world. In fact, his philosophy would make a nice introduction for the Mplayer FAQ. (Q: Why are .avi files are playing with the colors reversed? A: Bite me.)

    If you're looking for a recipe how to piss off your customers, screw up your employees, alienate your partners this book is for you: it has a detailed description how to achieve all that based on Larry Ellison's extensive experience.

    And yet, somehow Ellison is a billionaire with a MiG and an America's Cup campaign and ElectricAnt is writing reviews on Slashdot...

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:30PM (#7767433) Homepage Journal
      Good Lord, I'd never actually read that before. From a section of the FAQ [mplayerhq.hu]:

      Q #132: I can't see any picture, only hear the sound
      A: you are blind

      Q: #133: I have configured and compiled mplayer, how do I use it?
      A: try sticking it up your ass.

      Thanks for the tip. I'd read about unpleasant dealings with the MPlayer group, but didn't realize how obnoxious they really were. That was an eye-opener.

      • by yppiz (574466) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:58PM (#7767825) Homepage
        That's the joke FAQ. Here's a link to the real Mplayer FAQ [mplayerhq.hu].

        --Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu

        • My strained eyes didn't pick out the first darker-yellow link amid the less-dark-yellow text against the dark-yellow-olive background when I was looking fot the FAQ, and you're right: there is another FAQ on the site. But note that in the "MPLAYER DOCUMENTATION" (their caps, not mine) section, they link to both FAQs as authoritative without any indication that the second one is supposed to be humorous (either in the FAQ itself or on the page linking to it).

      • Please note, before everyone gets bent out of shape, FAQ2 is a joke. The actual FAQ is here [mplayerhq.hu] (and very good, BTW).

        More foolishness from FAQ2:

        Q: #1+2=~17: iuefg hehpfeh feu xhfaohefh hsoiae e mplaykhder????
        A: mplayer is only supported up to 3 promille of blodalcohol.
        A2: umount /dev/vodka && eject /dev/stomach
        A3: kjafh mplayeeer bol?!!
        A4: Gone fishing.
        A5: where's the toilet paper?

  • by TrollBridge (550878) on Friday December 19, 2003 @02:58PM (#7767052) Homepage Journal
    "...has not been approved, endorsed or edited by Oracle or Larry Ellison, so it could be that many things were said out loud for the first time."

    Or for that matter, it could be that many things (in the book) may be patenly false. How are we to know?

    • What kind of a book would you expect if you only talked to people who hate the guy?

      This is nothing more then trolling.
  • by erc (38443) <erc AT pobox DOT com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:01PM (#7767095) Homepage
    Well, you *do* know what ORACLE stands for, don't you? One Real Asshole Called Larry Ellison.

    I still remember a lot of the guy's screwups, I was in the Bay Area in the late 80's and early 90's, when Larry habitually compared himself to God. All in all, an incredibly arrogant individual.
  • So what happens... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy (13680) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:04PM (#7767126) Journal

    ... when major Oracle customers read:


    (the mindset) ... with Oracles customers (the Oracle mindset is described as "use 'em and dump 'em.")


    I know I'd not be particularly happy, but what else do you do ? If your business needs Oracle, then there is no real alternative - Informix is a distant second place, with the rest of the pack some why behind. Good luck porting from "standard SQL" to "standard SQL" as well :-)

    I have a certain amount of respect for Ellison (purely down to his PR image, of course :-) but if he's manipulated power into his own hands as much as the review makes out, Oracle is doomed. No one man can provide the needs of a gigantic company like Oracle over the long term - it has to be a collabarative effort ...

    Simon
    • by Dastardly (4204)
      have a certain amount of respect for Ellison (purely down to his PR image, of course :-) but if he's manipulated power into his own hands as much as the review makes out, Oracle is doomed. No one man can provide the needs of a gigantic company like Oracle over the long term - it has to be a collabarative effort ...

      So, you read "Good to Great"? Basically, it looks like Larry has put Oracle into the position where the second he leaves they will be screwed. But, they may still do well while he is around.
      • Basically, it looks like Larry has put Oracle into the position where the second he leaves they will be screwed.

        I have the suspicion that, for Larry, this is not a bug, but a feature.

        Cheers,
    • by I8TheWorm (645702)
      There are plenty of alternatives to Oracle as both a DB and an ERP. As a matter of fact, on the DB side, many customers realize this as Oracle's marketshare is still dropping, which you can find here [ecommercetimes.com] and here [about.com].

      SAP is still crowned victorious in the ERP solutions market. And quite frankly, DB2 and SQL Server are much easier to admin than Oracle, both with an extremely rich set of features, with SQL Server beating Oracle in benckmarks for some time now (until the recent release of 10g where Oracle beats SQ
  • by cats-paw (34890) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:12PM (#7767210) Homepage
    I guess I will point out the obvious.

    If you shouldn't run your business that way
    then why is it so successful ?

    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:27PM (#7767400) Homepage Journal
      We used to measure success in decades. Now it's measured in quarters. But that's not the real issue.

      I would argue that no leader of these large corporations is successful. No matter how large the company grows, the feel the need to make it bigger and bigger and bigger. They all finally get to the point that they are carved up by "the people" in the form an Anti-Trust law, or implode ala Enron.

      None of this would happen if leaders would learn contentment. Once you have a working business model, a strong staff, and a steady stream of customers, it is time to sit back and let your investors profit.

      Today, no one is profiting. The big names are in a war of attrition and a run for the bottom. Smaller companies are having to compete against artifically low prices, and direct competition from large companies trying to soak up every available dollar.

      Investors don't get dividends. Capital is tied up either acquiring companies, protecting the company from aquisitions, or jumping off a cliff with these idiotic offshoring schemes.

      So if everyone is miserable, why are we doing it? Ask Captain Ahab.

      • by pipingguy (566974) on Saturday December 20, 2003 @12:34AM (#7771584) Homepage
        None of this would happen if leaders would learn contentment. Once you have a working business model, a strong staff, and a steady stream of customers, it is time to sit back and let your investors profit.

        Support privately-owned companies with your investment dollars instead. I'd rather trust a rigidly-held private company than a wishy-washy one that panders to flighty market whims based on percieved shareholder demands.

        As someone said, the current malaise is due to boomer investors wanting NOW NOW NOW.

        Ironically, this is the generation that "had it all" as a result of the post WW2 boom, but now they want more.
    • Ok, if he has all the power, what happens when he dies? Has he properly trained anyone to take the reigns? (no) Is there anyone in the top tier that could effectively step in if something happend? (apparently not) If he's getting ready to shoot himself in the foot, is there anyone there he'd listen to with out getting angry and fireing them for saying "Hey, that may not be a good idea"? (doesn't seem to be).

      As long as he's alive, Oracle will "do ok", but once he's out of the picture for any reason, it turns

    • It's successful for that individual running the business, but not for the business in any longer term measure.

      Since there is little incentive provided other than to pump the stock price no matter what, the short term view wins.

      Also, Larry doesn't care what happens when he's gone. As long as he can get his money out, he's sitting pretty for the rest of his life...

      Regards,
      Ross
    • Because success is amoral.

      You don't have to be an ethical person to succeed.

      That doesn't mean you shouldn't be an ethical person. In MY life, that means that I will choose my ethics and my morality over my short-term success, every single time.

      It's called integrity. It pays off in the long run.
  • Piss off customers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nsxdavid (254126) * <dw AT play DOT net> on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:16PM (#7767267) Homepage
    I think the idea that he goes out of his way to piss off customers sounds a bit one-sided.

    We use Oracle for our back office / billing systems for our MMPOGs; have for about 10 years or so now. Indeed Oracle has been rather obnoxious to us on two occasions; one when they wanted to audit us (being a pretty small fry compared to their other customers, it was bizzare enough but turned out okay because we were in compliance as usual) and when they refused to negotiate on support fees even though we seldom if ever used it (but wanted it just in case something really bad went on).

    I'm not sure, however, that if you totally alienate your customers you'd be doing quite as well as Oracle has.

    Personally, I think Oracle's DB products are amazingly stable. We had our billing system running, under constant heavy load, for 3 years straight on an NT box. Only shut it down because we wanted to do some system changes. And even that was optional.

    I think their tools are antiques though. SQL Server, as a competing commercial product, is much easier to administrate and so forth.

    But, like many things, we have Oracle in house experience. Switching would not really be desireable unless they went nuts on us in some way.

    I have yet to read the book, but I think I should to get some insight even if it is pretty one-sided.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:18PM (#7767288)
    I'm not sure what to think of Ellison. However, I have to say that most of the people reviewed control companies (Siebel, Peoplesoft) that produce products I find to be vastly overcomplicated and overhyped. I have to say that Oracle is probably a better place without them, and I think more highly of Ellison as a result of his getting rid of them...

    Haven't you every thought, sometimes, that a number of high level execs from your company should just go? Yet no-one will every git rid of them. At least Ellison has the guts to rid upper management of people that do not belong, even if the reason for that is in his head. Whose to say some of those firings were not actually good ideas?
  • autocracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:20PM (#7767303) Homepage Journal
    With a ruthless Ellison out for "success" at any cost, his immediate offer to a nascent Department of Fatherland Security of a universal Oracle database modelling every American's every move is chilling. Imagine the harrowing monoculture we'd have when everyone has a unique stored procedure in their ID cards for every bridge/highway entrance, credit transaction, library visit, ballot response.
    • I have to say I find this post a little naive. The universally unique identifier you worry about whenever you make a credit transaction is, er, called a credit card number. If you're in the SF bay area, and you have one of those automated toll thingys for whenever you cross a bridge, and you pay it via credit card, well, there are marketers out there who can add 1 and 1. In so many other ways - change channels, log on to a website - people are watching.

      You don't need Larry to propose a unique number for y

      • Of course the unique number isn't the problem. We each have many: credit card, social security number, driver's license number, phone numbers, electronic toll payments, the list seems endless. However, the power is in the JOIN. The government has the power to get access to each of these unique keys, and the resources to implement the realtime JOINs to relate us into the crosshairs. With a crusader like Ashcroft "protecting" us and a powermonger like Ellison selling him the tools, the "private" space will be
  • by Saanvik (155780) on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:38PM (#7767567) Homepage Journal
    There are three paragraphs talking about the content and quality of book and the rest is a synopsis of the book. Also, although the reviewer says that author "kept a neutral point of view" the reviewer ends with
    If you're looking for a recipe how to piss off your customers, screw up your employees, alienate your partners this book is for you: it has a detailed description how to achieve all that based on Larry Ellison's extensive experience.
    While the book may be neutral, this paragraph isn't.

    IMO, it's pretty clear that the reviewer is more interested in making a statement about how s/he feels about Larry, using sections from the book to follow it up, than in reviewing the book.

  • by leoaugust (665240) <leoaugustNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @03:42PM (#7767611) Journal

    One thing that the Review did not bring out, which I think the Book might have, is the total fixation that Ellsion has on Gates. It is almost like a fetish. The significant parts of his career can almost said to be defined more by Gates that by his ownself. Gates ain't my favorite, but Ellison is less so.

    The Big Fight: Oracle vs. Microsoft [morochove.com] "In this corner is challenger Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and the NC (Network Computer). In the opposite corner is reigning champion Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and the NetPC. The low-cost computing fight has begun. This fight between Ellison and Gates isn?t solely about low-cost computing. It also concerns who?s in charge of the computer industry and mixes in the personal animosity between the two software rivals. Referring to Microsoft, Ellison said, ?The idea the world could be controlled by one company is shocking and unacceptable.? "

    There was a time when Oracle's Ellison Closer Than Ever To Richest-Man Title [forbes.com] "Larry Ellison may spend some quality time with his calculator this week. His net worth hasn't been this close to that of rival Bill Gates since 1986--that is, figuring in only their stakes in Microsoft and Oracle. While Oracle's stock has held up well this month, Microsoft shares have fallen dramatically because of renewed speculation that the government will break up the company. As of today's market close, Microsoft Chairman Gates' stake in Microsoft is worth $49.4 billion. Oracle Chief Executive Ellison has $48 billion worth of Oracle stock."

    But then it so happened Ellison was reduced to Dumpster Diving into M$ trash [theregister.co.uk] "Ellison maintained his company did nothing illegal in commissioning the investigation, which was revealed earlier this month after the detective agency Oracle had retained, Investigative Group International, was caught trying to buy from dustmen the office rubbish of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Microsoft-funded industry front group. To demonstrate his apparent belief that all's fair in Love, War and Corporate Public Relations, Ellison challenged Microsoft to investigate his own company in return. "We will ship them our garbage," he joked. "We will ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it. We believe in full disclosure.""

    Characteristically Ellison told a Forbes reporter in 1996 [forbes.com] that he was about to purchase a T-38 Supersonic jet fighter. "Maybe I should fire a few Maverick missiles in his [Gates'] living room," he joked.

    His fixation was apparent when he said ""The only software company we care about a lick ... is Microsoft [wired.com] Oracle is second only to Microsoft in terms of operating margin strength. And while much of Oracle's advertising is focused on its database battle with IBM, Ellison conceded that Microsoft remains his main focus. "The only software company we care about a lick ... is Microsoft," said Ellison, who also fielded questions regarding analysts' and investors' major concerns: executive departures and competition in Oracle's key database market."

    In keynote speeches, informal gatherings and private interviews [nwfusion.com], "the Oracle chief slips easily into long rants on what he sees as Gates' quest to dominate everything Microsoft touches. One favorite Ellison refrain is that Gates wants a world of "Microsoft English." Ellison in recent years has built a public image around pointed attacks on his competitor Microsoft, often singling out its Chairman, rich-man Gates, as a villainous copier of technology with a misguided vision of the computer industry."

    Other nice juicy Larry_Speak

    • Why not? Isn't MS the only real threat to Oracle? Maybe IBM too but surely it would be a huge mistake not to keep tabs on MS.

      Also don't forget the Gates is just as ruthless as ellison if not more so. I think Ellison understands exactly what Gates is capable of and wants to make sure he does not end up on the long list Gates victims.
      • Also don't forget the Gates is just as ruthless as ellison if not more so. I think Ellison understands exactly what Gates is capable of and wants to make sure he does not end up on the long list Gates victims.

        Gates may be a ruthless businessman, but I don't get the impression that he's a ruthless person. Of course, I don't know him, so take this with grain of salt, but I can't imagine Bill Gates ever saying "Maybe I should fire a few Maverick missiles in his [Ellison's] living room" or frequently use Lar
        • "but I can't imagine Bill Gates ever saying "Maybe I should fire a few Maverick missiles in his [Ellison's] living room" "

          I am not so sure. This is the same company that put out memos using gross terminology like "knife the baby" and "cut off the air supply". This is serial killer talk. I don't know if the terminology originated with gates but he did not raise any objections to it.

          "He's ruthless like a ruthless Monopoly game player -- bend the rules, maybe even cheat, be a poor loser, but it's still just
          • Look, I'm not really analyzing anything; I'm just giving my impressions of the two based on what I've read or heard about them. Like when you form a first impression, if you will, of someone you've met, although I've never met either of them, so my impressions come solely from the media.

            That said...

            This is the same company that put out memos using gross terminology like "knife the baby" and "cut off the air supply". This is serial killer talk. I don't know if the terminology originated with gates but he
            • "But those quotes are clearly metaphorical, not literal; there's absolutely no question that a baby and someone's trachea were not being"

              They may be metaphorical but in the entire universe of metaphors top level MS executives chose ones that are gross and violent. As I said this is serial killer talk not normal people talk. I use metaphors all the time but I would never have chosen imagery like that.

              It's obvious to me that this kind of talk goes on all the time at MS headquarters.

              "Gates could be the nic
              • They may be metaphorical but in the entire universe of metaphors top level MS executives chose ones that are gross and violent. As I said this is serial killer talk not normal people talk. I use metaphors all the time but I would never have chosen imagery like that.

                Fair enough; those metaphors are pretty inappropriate. I've never used them, myself. However, 1) I hear people use similar violent metaphors pretty often; 2) people obviously enjoy playing fake violence or even criminal acts -- see Doom, GTA,
                • " My point in all of this is that you can't condemn someone on the basis of two colorful phrases."

                  I am not. These two phrases don't stand alone. They are taken in context with a world of words and actions from the same top level execs at MS.

                  "I hesitate to judge the PEOPLE as evil simply on their choice of words. "

                  First of all it'e perfectly OK to judge people by what they say. You are judging Ellison by what he says aren't you? Secondly I am not "simply" judging them by what they say I am aslo judging th
                  • You are judging Ellison by what he says aren't you?

                    I'm not judging him like you are. I'm saying he's an asshole, not that he's evil.

                    Wow what an odd statement. First of all Bill Gates has done much worse then things then leveraging his monopoly. He has also stolen technology from his partners, he has reneged on contracts, he has stolen customers from his partners, he has lied repeatedly and backstabbed just about everybody he partnered up with.

                    I frankly don't know enough about what else Bill Gates ha
                    • "Microsoft has broken some laws, too, yes."

                      Why is that OK with you? Why is somebody who breaks laws a better person then somebody who did not break laws? You judge ellison harshly even though he has never been charged with a crime and you want to give Bill gates a pass even though he has been convicted.

                      "But I haven't heard anything about outright stealing technology;"

                      In that case you have your head buried in the sand. Sendo [informationweek.com], Priceline [com.com] , and Stac [vaxxine.com] are just a few of the victims [angelfire.com] of theft of Intellectual pro
                    • "Microsoft has broken some laws, too, yes."

                      Why is that OK with you? Why is somebody who breaks laws a better person then somebody who did not break laws? You judge ellison harshly even though he has never been charged with a crime and you want to give Bill gates a pass even though he has been convicted.


                      It's not OK with me that they've broken laws. We started out talking about Bill Gates the person, and I'm talking about whether he's an asshole or not. "He" has not been convicted; Microsoft has. There
            • Nitpick:

              The T-38 cannot carry missiles without extensive refitting. T means Trainer. It is never armed.

              Now, the Northrop F-5 Tiger shares most of the airframe and some powerplant options with the T-38, and it can be fitted with radar and weaponry. I don't know, however, if it has ever been fitted with Air to Ground Missiles (like the Maverick).

              Anyhow. Moving along. : )
          • I am not so sure. This is the same company that put out memos using gross terminology like "knife the baby" and "cut off the air supply". This is serial killer talk. I don't know if the terminology originated with gates but he did not raise any objections to it.

            Haven't sat in many board meetings I take it ?

            Shit, most people I know use more colourful metaphors at the pub and don't find any of them particularly scary.

            "I'd hit it", "I'd nail it" and "I'd bang her" are pretty common metaphors for sex. Do yo

  • Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs are reportedly good friends - Ellison even serves on Apple' board.

    My question is, when they're in the same room together, does the air begin to smell like shit? Because these have got be be two of the biggest assholes around.

    I don't even want to know what would happen if Ellison, Jobs and Ballmer got together in the same room.
  • Saw Ellison Speak (Score:2, Interesting)

    by love2hateMS (588764)
    He is worse in person than portrayed here. Arrogant, smug, obnoxious, unrepentant.

    Took plenty of digs at Microsoft. One could argue they are both evil, but I suspect Larry is not so much against Bill Gates as jealous of him. Imagine Larry with Bill's monopoly...

    If I wasn't an "Oracle Certified Professional" I'd probably badmouth his RDBMS as well... but I need to protect my marketability.

  • by dmuth (14143) <doug,muth+slashdot&gmail,com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @04:07PM (#7767926) Homepage Journal
    I'm not a shrink, but I've dealt with a couple of narcissists in my time. The big thing with narcissists is that they go around with this big chip on their shoulder, thinking that they are perfect and better than everyone else. It's so severe that they are unable to form many friendships or do much of ANYTHING, since their personality is so abrasive that it alienates most people who come into contact with them. (Lots of good info on narcissism is available at the Malignant Self Love [tripod.com] website)

    Like I said, I'm not a shrink, so I don't know what Larry's particular dysfunction may be, but I don't think it's narcissism.

    Sorry if I sound like I'm nitpicking. :-)

  • Everything else aside, especially considering this utter obession with Gates and Microsoft....was anyone else thinking that Oracle should maybe start producing their own Linux distro?

    Acquire and back Redhat more? Branch off on their own distro? There are many possible routes.

    I mean it seems that the one person who is completely crazed with "beating" Microsoft would be willing to put the kind of money and other resources into Linux that most open source fans cannot even imagine.... just a thought.
  • Open Source Oracle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randall_burns (108052) <randall_burns@@@hotmail...com> on Friday December 19, 2003 @04:30PM (#7768183)
    The real way to handle the Larry Ellison problem is to produce Open Source versions of key Oracle products. Postgresql and MySQL are good steps in that direction. The key though to Open Sourcing the Oracle database engine though is creating enough compatibility that folks that have developed in-house products using Oracle can easily port their products to an open source platform. That means a high level of compatibility in the area of interfaces(i.e. OCI) and SQL language variant.


    I personally think that Oracle is much more vulnerable to an Open Source attack than is Microsoft. A lot of pro-Oracle managers justify their support based on benchmarks [tpc.org]. As Open Source database offerings surpass Oracle in those key areas, we'll see the case for Oracle dramatically weakened. We have already seen that open source companies like JBOSS [jboss.org] are beating Oracle in key markets.

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekazon . c om> on Friday December 19, 2003 @06:00PM (#7769113) Homepage
    Based on the review, I would say this book illustrates my theory that many people we think of as "great" are actually aberrant personalities, driven by abnormal extremes of ambition, greed, insecurity, resentment, etc. Whether we shower them with riches or hunt them down and kill them depends mostly on whether their behavior happens to produce side effects that we like.
    A Larry Ellison and a Saddam Husseins aren't fundamentally very far apart.
  • God doesn't have delusions of being Larry Ellison.

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