Oracle has agreed to acquire RightNow Technologies for roughly $1.5 billion, or $43 per share — which would see the IT giant pay a 20 percent premium over RightNow’s closing price on Friday. The Bozeman, Montana-based RightNow offers an online service for powering instant messaging, social networks, and other communication tools among call centers, sales staff, and consumer-facing websites.
While many analysts have said that the purchase fits into Oracle’s recent shift into online service, not every piece of the puzzle lines up as neatly as some would lead you to believe. “Oracle’s bare-knuckle approach to sales and how it treats customers is 180 degrees the opposite to RightNow’s ethos of client-centricity and flexibility,” William Band, a vice president at research outfit Forrester Research, told Wired.com.
“[RightNow's employees] act and feel like they’re from Montana. Oracle feels like they can run you over. Some RightNow customers that purposefully avoid going with giants like Microsoft or Oracle may be unhappy now.”
Should RightNow shareholders approve the company’s sale and Oracle properly integrate the company’s service, the deal will go a long way towards providing the plumbing needed to compete in the cloud computing space — a market Oracle boss Larry Ellison mocked a year ago, but lauded at Oracle OpenWorld earlier this month.
During the expansive expo, Ellison and company announced a number of new products designed to compete on the net, including the Oracle Public Cloud and Oracle Social Network. Both announcements were largely seen as games of catch up. But with its largest acquisition since Sun Microsystems in January of 2010, Oracle is putting its money where its mouth is.
“RightNow’s leading customer service cloud is a very important addition to Oracle’s Public Cloud,” Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of Oracle’s development, said in a canned statement. Oracle did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Kurian’s statement also noted that the Oracle Public Cloud will handle everything from sales force automation, human resources and talent management, social networking, databases, and Java development.
SalesForce.com — whose CEO, Marc Benioff, enjoys publicly bickering with Oracle boss Larry Ellison — offers many of these tools through products like its Chatter social networking service and its Service Cloud, a way of managing customer service tasks. Though Band questions how well RightNow will integrate with Oracle’s operation, Peter Goldmacher of financial analysis outfit Cowen Group believes the RightNow-Oracle deal will put a crimp in SalesForce’s efforts to push Service Cloud. RightNow will benefit, he said, from Oracle’s phalanx of salespeople and myriad existing customers.
“Customer-service management solutions are primarily purchased by larger enterprises, where Oracle has dominant distribution,” he said in an email to Wired.com. “As Oracle becomes more competitive in this market segment, we expect it will slow down sales cycles and reduce win rates for SalesForce.”