A lot of you probably remember me writing about Sybase in 1994. (And yes, Tony Percy did admit at least that Gartner sped up its research drastically after I published, so as to follow me into print a month or so later.) Well, I’m not at that level of certainty yet this time. Indeed, I haven’t even sold all my stock in the company I’m worrying about. But I do increasingly find myself wondering: Is Oracle headed for hard times?
My nonobvious reasons for concern fall mainly into three large areas (follow the links for more detail on each):
- Oracle may be losing its edge in DBMS. Or at least (to brutally mix my metaphors), there are some cracks in the colossus.
- Oracle has never “gotten it” in applications.
- Oracle is perennially confused in analytic technology, which is becoming ever more important.
Obvious reasons for concern include the difficulties of integrating large acquisitions, general slow growth and price pressure in the technology sector, and a rolling management transition at the top of the company.
I’m far from ready to call the turn with assurance, however, because Oracle also has some formidable strengths. It indeed holds an excellent position in its core DBMS business, and by the numbers is very strong overall. Charles Phillips was once the best software stock analyst ever, which may make him the single person with the greatest understanding of software industry strategic dynamics. And Larry Ellison, detached as he may seem (and actually be) at times, has an amazing track record of making good decisions before it’s too late.
So I’m not yet predicting that Oracle will fall; I’m just pointing out some of the key issues it has to address if it is to remain prosperous.