You’ve got to hand it to Larry Ellison. At a time when everyone in the enterprise is excited about data analytics, the consumerization of IT, and anything mobile, he’s found a way to keep us writing about his database and middleware company. The secret? Legal filings chock full of colorful copy and tantalizing redactions.
Oracle updated its cross-complaint in a lawsuit with HP Friday, its latest jab in a boxing match that’s been fought since Oracle nabbed former HP CEO Mark Hurd and effectively put him in charge of the software company. To recap: Oracle and HP had a nasty legal battle over the Hurd hiring; they settled, and then Oracle abruptly said it wasn’t going to support its database and middleware products on HP’s HP-UX platform, which runs on the Itanium processor. HP sued Oracle in June, saying that under the terms of the Hurd settlement, Oracle couldn’t walk away from HP-UX/Itanium.
In Oracle’s latest — and very readable — legal filing, (posted online by Arik Hesseldahl at All Things D) Oracle does its best to vividly portray HP as nasty villain: cooking up secret deals with Intel to trick customers into believing that Intel was crazy about Itanium, even though they had completely flopped as a high-end alternative, while all the time shoveling cash at Intel to keep the Itanium development alive.
Take this choice piece of innuendo and strategic redaction from Oracle’s filing:
The contrast between what HP was discussing internally—the truth—and what it was telling the market and its actual and prospective customers—blatant lies—could not be more stark. Those internal statements include the following: (Redacted)
Sounds very juicy, without actually saying anything.
And so Oracle’s complaint continues, with a great blow by blow of the negotiations after Oracle and HP settled the Hurd lawsuit. HP tried to add language that guaranteed database, middleware and Java support on HP-UX, Oracle says. Oracle demurred, saying in its filings:
The final, executed version of [the agreement] is nearly identical to the version Oracle first drafted, adding only that the parties would reaffirm the idea of partnership “as it existed prior to Oracle’s hiring of Hurd.” That language confirmed that the only commitment Oracle was making was that Mr. Hurd’s hiring itself would not bring about a change in Oracle’s business practices.
And that speaks to the heart of the current legal dispute. HP says the contract obligated Oracle to keep supporting HP-UX. Oracle says that’s poppycock.
Here’s how HP put it in a statement emailed to Wired on Friday: “Today’s filing is another example of Oracle attempting to distract from the undeniable fact that it has breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers.”
Meanwhile, Oracle’s HP-UX customers have no idea whether next year’s Oracle 12G database will run on their hardware. That could hurt HP-UX sales as Oracle carries on selling its own version of Unix, called Solaris.
Interesting drama for the press; good business for Oracle, you might say.
The trial is set to start April 2, but expect delays. There’s almost certainly more pre-courtroom drama to come.