Catz bares hidden fangs at Israel conference

Competition in the software world is fiercer than ever and Safra Catz, the Israel-born and usually soft-spoken president and chief financial officer of Oracle Corp., uncharacteristically savaged rivals at the annual Oracle Israel technological conference Monday.

“A third of the features that Microsoft promised would be in its new database aren’t there,” Catz mocked, adding that Microsoft Corp. also presented its product two years behind schedule. Perhaps to drive her point home, she then said it again.

Catz, who left Israel at age six, also locked horns, metaphorically speaking, with SAP AG and IBM Corp. on behalf of Oracle, which is the world’s number two software maker after that software company from Redmond.

She took advantage of a private visit to Israel to attend the Oracle Israel meet at Airport City, south of Tel Aviv. And the day before her company publishes its fourth-quarter and full-year 2006 financial results, she tore off her kid gloves and had at SAP — the “German ERP company” and Microsoft.

Oracle has a beef with Microsoft, which has conquered significant swathes of the database and enterprise applications markets from Oracle. If there is a subtext to her message, it’s that Oracle will do anything to keep the enterprise market out of Microsoft’s claws.

Once a client goes Microsoft, it can get the whole package from Redmond and Oracle really doesn’t like when that happens.

However, Oracle’s case is that its features are much better — safer, more scalable, and so forth. This includes software it has improved in the wake of acquisitions. It has invested billions in buying no fewer than 30 software companies. Just three acquisitions — PeopleSoft Hyperion, and Siebel — together cost almost US$6 billion.

Catz also makes the case that it invests massively in R&D, as much as $2 billion a year. No small part of this money goes to helping customers with system integration.

“I am visiting our clients and watching many products that we already purchased, such as Hyperion and Siebel, and I am happy to say to my customers that they don’t have any integration problem any more.”

How’s that? That’s because Oracle does the worrying for them: “It is proud to undertake this problem,” Catz explains, allowing them to focus on their business while it considers the knotty issues of integrating the systems of the 30 companies it bought with its own.

Catz took a swipe at competitors: “SAP failed to meet the goals that it declared in its financial statements.

We managed to beat expectations for 17 straight quarters while SAP missed forecasts in three out of four quarters, including the fourth and most significant quarter, which a software company cannot afford to miss,” she said.

She also noted that SAP is not expected to have new products for the high-end business market until 2010, while Oracle’s new offerings should be ready to roll next year.

What SAP is concentrating on at present is the small business sector, she says, hinting that the company has lost focus and is scrabbling for revenue. “SAP has succumbed to the curse of the winners. They lost sight of the competition,” she analyzes. “We have the competition in view all the time.”

As for the resignation of superstar Shai Agassi from SAP, she shrugs that she can’t comment. “I believe he’s a very clever man and he saw great opportunity in green technologies,” she said, after the young Israeli, who had been tapped to be the leader of the software giant one day, bowed out.

She thinks he probably compared his potential future in alternative energy to his potential future at SAP, and figured that green is better than software for enterprises.

Regarding IBM, Catz claims that Oracle passed the older company in worldwide database market share

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