Oracle-PeopleSoft Combo Could Clear Way For Microsoft-SAP Do-Over

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Maybe the only thing about being around the block a few (cough, cough) times, is that you actually gain some perspective.

For example, the fact that Oracle's uber-hostile bid for PeopleSoft might actually pass antitrust muster very well could resurrect talk of an even glitzier sale: Microsoft's once-considered buyout of SAP, the biggest of the big in the ERP realm.

It wouldn't be the first time that Microsoft's braintrust practiced a sort of business jujitsu, using an opponent's seemingly win-win move to achieve Redmond's goals and, oh by the way, weaken that opponent in the process.

Those who were around before the boom-and-bust may remember that Borland International launched what was at the time a blockbuster buyout of Ashton-Tate, the former kingpin of PC databases. Borland wanted lots of Ashton-Tate's dBase customers. So, Borland's flamboyant boss, Philippe Kahn got out his checkbook in 1991 and bought what he thought was an insurmountable market share lead that the combination of Ashton-Tate's dBase and Borland's popular Paradox provide.d He got the prize for $439 million, which was real money at the time. The problem was, that this purchase actually lead to the unraveling of Borland's prodigious database lead.

Why? Microsoft, as usual, pounced. Microsoft's lawyers felt, and were proved correct, that Borland's buyout of dBase, eliminated possible antitrust objections to Microsoft buying Fox Software, the maker of a very slick dBase rival. FoxPro was a cult favorite, and was considered technically superior to a dBase IV that was plagued with bugs and 'memory leaks.' Fox had relatively small market share, but it had street cred. Microsoft got all of that for a mere $170 million-and-change. Microsoft's FoxPro and Access tandem, along with extremely aggressive pricing, ended Borland's dominance. It also got, for awhile, the services of Fox maestro Dave Fulton, or Dr. Dave, a violin-playing-and-collecting professor from Ohio who built the FoxBase and FoxPro businesses.

So, now even some of Microsoft's own partners say Microsoft probably should rethink its SAP game plan to combat what could be a bigger and badder Oracle. Last June, Microsoft said it scuttled the very private chats with SAP because of the "complexities" in completing such a deal. But both companies might whip out the green eyeshades again should Oracle CEO Larry Ellison get his PeopleSoft prize.

Baan reborn?

Jan Baan is back. The man who founded and lead his eponymous ERP company before cashing out, is back in the fray with Cordys, a maker of what it calls (buzzword alert) a new Web services platform for creating "more efficient and collaborative business environments for people, systems and organizations."

For the newbies out there, Baan's older namesake company foundered after years of let's just say quirky financial practices. What remains of it is now part of SSA Global.

Cordys' platform will compete with SAP's NetWeaver, IBM's WebSphere and Microsoft's .Net line ups, according to the company's PR. Well, if you're gonna compete, you might as well go for it.

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