On Oracle, Jeff Tarter And Notes

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First, a tip of the hat to Oracle. The company may be ruthless in its dealings with takeover targets and often with its own partners. But that ruthlessness sometimes pays off in cold-blooded efficiency.

Just ask the reporter—to go unnamed here to protect the idiotic—who left her cell phone in the keynote venue. It was gone within minutes, probably snarfed up by the hyper-ambitious cleaning crew. But within 20 minutes of informing an Oracle PR person, said phone was back in her clammy hands. Whether or not THAT is actually good news is open to question.

Partners at the show are glad that Oracle execs—at least up to and including president Charles Phillips—are saying the right things about building better channel rapport. The question, as always, is whether Larry Ellison is fully aboard with this. Famous for saying he doesn't want to pay twice on one deal (once to Oracle reps, once to partners) it is still unclear that he understands how much the company needs an army of solution providers especially if it wants to combat Microsoft SQL Server, and increasingly IBM DB2, in small and medium sized businesses.

A couple partners gushed about the attention being paid them by IBM Software these days.
These partners say Phillips "gets it" when it comes to partners. Even Keith Block, who heads up North American sales, seems to get it. So the question remains.where does Larry stand?

There is also some nervousness, as always, about succession issues at the database giant.
"The good news is that Chuck Phillips is the new number 2 guy. What worries me is that Chuck Phillips is the number 2 guy. Number two guys at Oracle typically get shot," said one long-time integration partner who recited the litany of past dead heirs apparent from Ray Lane to Gary Bloom to Tom Siebel to..

Also at the show, big hype waves surrounding the Dell-Intel-Oracle-blessed MegaGrid Project which appears to be thus far, a repository for white papers and little else.

What reporters wanted to hear was not more "marketecture," but Michael Dell's take on the IBM-Lenovo deal announced later that day. Ever the spinmeister, Dell characterized it as a validation of Dell's own organic growth strategy.


A bunch of Boston area journos and flackies gathered last week to toast our pal Jeff Tarter at Fire and Ice in the Back Bay.

Tarter was the longtime editor of Softletter and the consummate quote man. Jeff-as-pundit was the rarest of commodities: combining knowledge of the industry with a willingness to call a spade a spade. UsuallyON the record. Those people were rare to begin with and have disappeared pretty much entirely now.

Dan Bricklin recorded the festivities in his blog, with pictures. The whole event, coordinated by John Brodeur, was a reminder of how much fun this business used to be, before it got quite so self-important and humorless.

Jeff reminded everyone that he hasn't, in fact, retired, he's just exiting SoftLetter. He continues to consult and—hopefully opine.

I culled some vintage Jeffisms from Ed Scannell of Infoworld and Lisa Picarille, formerly of Infoworld, both of whom went to the Tarter well often. One quote sticks out over time: "OS/2 will be IBM's Vietnam."

Scannell once called Tarter for a quote on some seemingly cataclysmic development--probably one of the many antitrust actions against Microsoft. Jeff, who made a practice of telling reporters just exactly why their story was profoundly uninteresting and irrelevant before delivering a quote that proved the opposite, launched a rant. It went something like: "You remember that big comet that hit the earth 65 million years ago and killed all the dinosaurs? Well, this is not nearly as important as that."

There were great stories. Vadim Yasinovsky, founder of Clear Software, recounted a Brazil junket years ago where Jeff spoke ad nauseum to an audience of entrepreneurs about the value of PR. It dawned on Vadim about 30 minutes in that no one in the multitudes had the faintest notion of what PR even was.

Later in the same trip, Jeff and his wife and Vadim were stranded somewhere on the road, and as everyone around him was panicking about getting back or whatever, Jeff sat there "like a king" always confident that somehow, some way, he would be taken care of, Vadim recalled.

Besides the Boston crew, Ann Stephens, formerly PC Data, made the trek from D.C. for the event. And, Renee Blodgett, who could not attend, reported on the event in her own weblog.


Got some flack about a feature on Tuesday's 20th birthday of Notes. Interestingly, many users have a love-hate affair with that groupware/messaging/collaboration software. A past colleague used to bitch often about Notes being too much software for mere mortals. "It does every [expletive deleted] thing except the one thing I need it to do," she used to scream.

A current cohort weighed in this morning. "Happy Birthday, Notes!? Are you kidding me?" she pinged. "How about Eat [expletive deleted], Notes." Everybody's a critic.

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