PeopleSoft CEO Blasts Microsoft 'Dependency'

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With friends like PeopleSoft, Microsoft might wonder why it needs enemies.

As expected, PeopleSoft Tuesday announced full-fledged support for Linux and the company's CEO unambiguously characterized that move as a way to break Microsoft's grip on the industry.(See story.)

"Unix broke the dependency on IBM mainframes, and Linux will break the dependency on Microsoft," PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway told a thousand or so customers and analysts at the company's Leadership Conference here.

"Today's biggest dependency is on the Microsoft operating system, and Microsoft most understandably is determined to continue that dependency. Their response to the push toward Internet applications is .Net. This is a strategy to convince you that if you use Microsoft development tools, Microsoft operating systems, Microsoft databases, you can continue to run enterprise software on PCs. Why is this a good thing? It's a bad thing. It causes problems It's like asbestos. .Net is like learning to make asbestos," Conway said.

Oddly, enough, as Conway pointed out later, PeopleSoft supports that .Net strategy. Kind of.

Backpedaling slightly, Conway said: "It's not that we're anti-Microsoft. We're pro-choice."

PeopleSoft, echoing a strategy espoused by players from Sun Microsystems to IBM, aims to move applications off the PC to servers, where they are browser-accessible by authorized users.

Conway's announcement was greeted by a smattering of applause at the event, not a blatant seal of approval. Goldman Sachs software analyst Rick Sherlund shrugged off the news. "Everyone's got to support Linux," he said.

PeopleSoft is working with IBM, a huge Linux booster, to test and certify its applications on Linux. That ensures that PeopleSoft Linux apps will run on WebSphere application servers, DB2 databases and the X Series hardware, an IBM spokesman said.

An informal poll of conference attendees showed less-than-fervent support for Linux in the enterprise. Executives from companies ranging from The Hartford to a large restaurant chain to AnswerThink, a consultancy, said they see little real demand for mission-critical applications on Linux. So far.

But they noted that as companies like PeopleSoft line up behind earlier Linux adopters like IBM, SAP and Oracle, that may change, especially if Linux can be demonstrated to bring down computing costs.

Clearly, PeopleSoft, like Siebel Systems, SAP and other enterprise software makers, is concerned with Microsoft's growing push into its turf. Siebel last fall unveiled plans to support .Net but within weeks pledged seemingly equal allegiance to IBM's J2EE-centric strategy. Siebel has yet, however, to embrace Linux. SAP and J.D. Edwards also have sought to promote the use of IBM's DB2 database in customer accounts over Microsoft SQL Server, observers have said.

Also at the confab, Conway said PeopleSoft will start shipping "out of the box" integration with SAP and Oracle with its applications.

"This is the beginning of the end of middleware," Conway said.

"We will bundle business processes directly interconnected with SAP and Oracle out of the box," said Ram Gupta, executive vice president of products and technology at PeopleSoft.

PeopleSoft, in a drive to boost the user experience, is "embedding diagnostic probes right into the app to [identify] bottlenecks and trouble spots and present potential solutions, Gupta said.

Also on deck are improvements to software upgrade processes and promises to automate that process to enable "zero downtime" while the new app is installed, data is migrated and synchronized and switched over from old to new system," Gupta said.

Other promised perks are continued improvements to streamline navigation through the software modules.

No timing or details were provided.

Given PeopleSoft's recent financial woes, some observers characterized the Linux move as a Hail Mary pass, and a late one at that. "Look, you could say they're at a stage when they're trying anything," said one of PeopleSoft's large partners, who requested anonymity.

PeopleSoft, like other enterprise software players, has seen its software license revenue decline and two weeks ago said it expects its software revenue to decline 25 percent more this year.

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