SAP Snaps up Sybase

Somewhere on the high seas, Larry Ellison is handing the captain's wheel to one of his acolytes and turning the volume up on CNBC. He’ll want to hear this news.

SAP, the big German ERP vendor and a rival to Ellison's Oracle, said this week that it will buy Sybase, a long-time Oracle foe in the database market, for $5.8 billion. This is a direct shot across Ellison's bow. For years, Oracle has dominated the database market, and it's been trying to siphon of some extra revenue by selling -- pretty successfully -- ERP and CRM in large part to its corporate database customers. Oracle has the enterprise applications, the database, the charismatic CEO -- when it comes to enterprise computing, Oracle has it all.

But now, so will SAP (aside from, maybe, the part about the charismatic CEO). The ERP market leader is coming at the enterprise from the opposite angle of Oracle -- SAP built its business on applications, specifically on its massive ERP back-end software. Now, the Sybase database line will put SAP on a more even footing with its Bay Area rival.

So, there's a real clash of the titans happening here. The database leader has long had a very solid enterprise-apps offering, and now the enterprise-apps leader has a database to go with its software. Where does this, then, leave Microsoft with Dynamics? Just where it has always been -- sitting pretty as the cheaper, less risky, more familiar alternative to Oracle and SAP that, oh by the way, just happens to natively integrate with the rest of the Microsoft stack.

In a sense, SAP's move, while it makes sense, is pretty old school. The company has struggled to set up a solid cloud-based offering, and this acquisition probably won't help it all that much in moving in that direction. SAP might want to consider its long-term priorities there. But the fact is that a lot of ERP revenues come from vendors selling back into their existing customer bases, so adding another big-ticket item from Sybase could be a very positive step for SAP. If nothing else, it's likely to irk Larry Ellison, and we at RCPU kind of like it when that happens.

Will you give the SAP-Sybase combination a look as a partner? As an IT buyer? Have your say at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on May 13, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


2010 Begins Today: Microsoft Releases Office and SharePoint

By the time you read this, the confetti will have fallen, the executives will have made their speeches and Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will be available to enterprises. Check back with RCPmag.com for updates throughout the day and during the rest of this week. Our man Jeff Schwartz is on the scene at the New York launch party.

Although SharePoint is likely to be the big moneymaker for partners, it's Office that's getting all the attention. And most of that attention is centered on Office Web Apps, the long-awaited, fully cloud-based, free version of Office that launched today with the flagship Office product.

Office 2010 is Microsoft's answer to Google Apps, and it's a pretty good answer, given its integration with the client version of Office. Google Docs integrates with…well, nothing, really. It's not supposed to integrate with anything; the whole point is for it to live in the cloud and not much of anywhere else. OK, so users can create and edit Microsoft Word documents inside Google Docs, but the transition from Google to Microsoft isn't always perfect -- as your editor, a user of both Docs and Office, knows first-hand.

We're guessing that Microsoft's pure integration between its client and online suites will be smoother than Google's bridge to Office is. Of course, that hasn't stopped Google from touting its own online software this week -- or from taking a few shots at Microsoft's new wares.

Hey, that's fair enough. Competition is healthy. And Google has managed to draw lots of hype for its cloud-based suite. But thus far, that's about all that Google has really produced -- hype. For all the press coverage (including a fair amount here) of Google stealing high-profile accounts away from Office, the Microsoft suite still absolutely owns its competitor in the enterprise market.

And the free, integrated, likely pretty useful Office Web Apps should only help hold or even increase Office's market share -- providing Web Apps works as advertised. Even if it doesn't, Google Docs really isn't that great, functionality-wise. Familiarity with this type of software breeds comfort rather than contempt. Microsoft has that going for it, too. The only real risk here, of course, is that companies and consumers will start using Office Web Apps for free and stop paying for the main Office products. We're not sure, though, that anybody's ready to put quite that much faith in the cloud yet.

The empire has struck back in the Office-suite game -- and it really hadn't suffered much damage to begin with. As we've said here before, never, ever, ever count Microsoft out in any market or category of technology. And definitely count Microsoft in as the present and very likely future leader of the productivity-suite race.

What impresses you most about Office 2010? SharePoint 2010? What disappoints you? Do you think that Google is a real threat to Microsoft Office? Share your thoughts at [email protected]  

Posted by Lee Pender on May 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


New Attack Gets by Pretty Much All Windows Security Software

Well, here's a piece of bad news. Researchers have found holes in pretty much every anti virus software program available for Windows, including the biggest-selling ones. That means that attackers can make a Maginot Line out of your firewall or anti virus program and go right around it to install malware on your machine. Great.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


Patent Office Confirms i4i Patent

The company that managed to briefly shut down sales of Microsoft Word not long ago is inching ever closer to a $290 million windfall from Microsoft for patent infringement. The US Patent Office is almost assuredly going to say that the i4i patents that Microsoft apparently broke (according to a jury and an appeals court, anyway…) in Word were indeed valid patents. Redmond might end up being on the hook for this one after all.  

Posted by Lee Pender on May 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Read up on the Best of Office and SharePoint Reporting from RCP and Redmond

Boost your Office and SharePoint knowledge on launch day by going back through some of our better work regarding the two products. Here are a few suggestions. Back in March, Doug Barney wrote about users' impressions of the beta version of Office 2010. In April, Jeff Schwartz wrote about how partners just can't wait to get their hands on SharePoint 2010. And in May, Jeff wrote a piece on why Office will still kick bottom despite facing more competition than ever.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Windows 7 Is the Crown Prince of Operating Systems

So, where has RCPU been this week?  Not around, for a variety of reasons. But never mind that. We're back now, and so is Microsoft.

Well, OK, Microsoft has been back for a while -- back from the brink after the failure that was the Windows Vista operating system. This week, forlorn Vista packed up its belongings and headed out into the great beyond, the market-share abyss.

Windows 7 passed Vista in enterprise market share, more or less officially, and in doing so became the rightful successor to King Windows XP's business-OS throne (which the good king is not surrendering easily).

There's no surprise here, of course. But this small event does officially relegate Vista into the pantheon of technology flops; someday we'll all look back and laugh about it. Maybe we're laughing already. But give Microsoft credit: Neither its own rotten product nor a clever (if way overplayed) ad campaign from Apple nor the rebel forces of open source could keep Redmond down for long. Most of us are still PCs, and while Windows 7 might not have been our idea, it will eventually be our operating system.

We're still looking for feedback on Microsoft's greatest comebacks. Is Windows 7 overcoming the specter of Vista one of them? Answer at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on May 06, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


Veghte Turns up at HP

One of the main architects of Windows 7's success left Microsoft in January. But he's back, and he's going to ply his trade for the software business of one of Microsoft's biggest and oldest partners. Bill Veghte, former head of Microsoft's Windows unit, will soon lead HP's enterprise software business. Good choice, we'd say, HP.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 06, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft, HTC in Patent Link

Ugh, here come the patent lawyers again. Fire up the grill down in Tyler, Texas (patent lawsuit capital of the US), because Microsoft has entered into a patent agreement with HTC for Android phones that could set off a three-way East Texas showdown between Microsoft, Google and Apple.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Credit Rating Service Says Distributors Look Stable

Rating service Fitch Ratings took a look at Ingram Micro, Tech Data and a couple of other distributors and thought that they looked…OK. Good news, not great -- but we'll take good.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


HP Bails out Palm

There was a time when the Palm Pilot was very nearly a Xerox machine, a Kleenex, Google or maybe even the iPhone. It defined the category -- back when "PDA" still meant public display of affection to a lot of people, Palm Pilot meant handheld electronic organizer. The thing was the category.

Of course, that has all changed over the last couple of decades, and Palm hasn't been able to keep up with its smart phone competitors, particularly Apple. So, this week, a company that might be able to keep up with Apple snapped up Palm: HP.

It's a $1.2 billion deal, and it brings HP lots of patents from Palm, not to mention a couple of new lines of Palm phones. Of course, our thinking here is always the same -- if Palm was going under, what makes HP think that it can save Palm, or use its technology to seriously break into the smart phone game? In other words, how are two companies that are struggling in the smart phone business (HP actually has a phone called iPaq -- who knew?) going to combine to take down Apple, the vendor that's dominant in the market?

This sort of acquisition always seems a bit like the blind buying the blind. Still, HP is a company with lots of resources and, like Microsoft, when it really wants to get into something it will dive in with little hesitation and lots of cash. That's a strategy that's been known to work before in this industry. Will it work well enough to justify and outlay of $1.2 billion and a heck of a lot of integration costs? Only time will tell.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't tip our RCPU hat to Palm, that child of 3Com that was an innovator and trail blazer that finally petered out. We have a feeling that the Palm brand will survive (seriously, iPaq?), but it's hard to imagine that it'll ever regain the identification value it had in the 90s. HP probably doesn't care about that, though, as long as Palm brings some market share and some revenue.

What was your first handheld device? What's your take on HP's place in the smart phone market? Send your answers to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on April 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


VMware, Salesforce.com to Launch Java-Based Cloud-Development Platform

Another fighter jet of a development platform joined the battle for the cloud this week, as Salesforce.com and VMware revealed an effort called…seriously…VMforce.

Aside from sounding like a '70s superhero cartoon, VMforce has some muscle behind it. First of all, Salesforce.com has expanded in recent years from being mainly a provider of hosted CRM to being a pretty legitimate cloud player -- see its Force.com development platform, for instance. And VMware is VMware, still the runaway leader in virtualization technologies.

But they key to VMforce is a four-letter word: Java. The VMforce platform will be a cloud-based development platform for Java developers, who number about 6 million or so worldwide, according to Salesforce.com and VMware folks.

"These java developers haven't had a clear path to the cloud," Eric Stahl, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce.com, told RCPU this week. "There's hasn't been a good cloud option for them to date."

This one, a preview of which is due to launch in the second half of this year, sounds pretty good. Essentially, developers can create WAR files in Java, drop them into VMforce and let the platform take things from there. A variety of technologies and platforms, including vSphere, Spring, Tomcat and VMforce itself, automatically deploy files in the cloud and facilitate their maintenance and operation.

VMforce is a "hermetically sealed environment," Mitch Ferguson, senior director of alliances at VMware, told RCPU. "The Java developer downloads [the WAR file] into VMforce, and we handle everything from there," Ferguson explained.

"You're literally depositing a WAR file onto the platform, and it just will scale from there," Stahl added.

VMware and Salesforce.com see their alliance, in some respects, as a Java-based cloud alternative to .NET and Azure. They figure they have numbers on their side, with Java still being the dominant programming language for writing business applications.

"We think Microsoft has laid out a vision to bring .NET developers to the cloud with Azure, and we feel this will be the path for the 6 million Java developers to the cloud," Stahl said. "We're going to make it a more abstract platform where you don't have to deal with the lower-level infrastructure as you do with the Azure platform."

The whole cloud-development picture is starting to look like an old film clip of an aerial battle from World War II -- metaphorically speaking, of course. But we figure that with VMware and Salesforce.com backing a Java effort, the latest squadron to enter this fight will pack some firepower.

What's your take on cloud development? What do you think about VMware and Salesforce.com joining forces? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on April 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments