on Tuesday refuted reports that it had enlisted Microsoft’s
help for its defense against the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit.
The DoJ is concerned about limiting competition in the enterprise applications market if Oracle’s $9.4 billion bid to buy PeopleSoft goes through.
Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass said the Redwood Shores, Calif., company has considered calling on Microsoft since June, when it announced its interest in PeopleSoft, but no decision has been reached.
She said Oracle would not hesitate to “proactively approach Microsoft to solicit [Microsoft’s] support for this case” because it seems likely Microsoft will widen its presence in the market from selling applications to mid-sized companies to larger enterprises.
Oracle believes that Microsoft is seeking to grow its applications business by competing with Oracle, PeopleSoft
and others for large customers. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said his company would not comment on the Oracle case.
The premise is central for Oracle’s position that the enterprise applications market extends beyond German giant SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft. Assistant Attorney General R. Hewitt Pate contends that these are the three main entities for automating business processes for companies and government agencies.
Oracle disagrees and vowed to defend itself against the DoJ, which it will meet in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, likely in June.
Were Microsoft to tip its intent to enter the market for larger applications, it may broaden the DoJ’s view of the market, which many analysts said cannot be summed up in three players. Other vendors make products that cater to large companies, but the DoJ has excluded them in their definition of the space, as well as Microsoft’s involvement, because it sells to mid-sized outfits.
Doug Broder, leader of the antitrust attorney team at Nixon Peabody, of New York, said Microsoft could be the source of some very useful evidence to help counter the government’s claims.
“Oracle will likely be looking for documents from Microsoft that indicate that Microsoft already considers Oracle and PeopleSoft its competitors in the market for office software, that talk about whether and when it plans to expand into applications for larger companies, and/or that talk generally about the market for office software in a way that supports Oracle’s position,” Broder told internetnews.com.
Regardless, the fact that Oracle would seek Microsoft’s help in the matter is ironic. Oracle and its CEO Larry Ellison were vocal critics when Microsoft tangled with the DoJ over antitrust violations.
That Oracle is willing to ask the help of a hated rival — both make competing database servers in addition to applications — after such bad blood is testament to Oracle’s difficult position.
Broder said the notion that Oracle might seek aid from a company that’s been in a dogfight with the nation’s most powerful legal body is hardly surprising.
Of course, whether Microsoft might be persuaded to help willingly is another matter. Microsoft has the right to deny Oracle help, but Oracle could then subpoena the Redmond, Wash., software giant, according to Broder.
“I would be surprised if Microsoft cooperated willingly so I think a subpoena is likely,” Broder said. “Even then, Microsoft could drag its feet in responding to make life more difficult for Oracle.”