Oracle takes on Microsoft

Writes WSJ:

Oracle is squarely targeting customers of Microsoft’s corporate e-mail software, or Exchange server, with the latest version of its collaboration suite, a package of software that gives computer users one mailbox for e-mail, voice mail, faxes and appointments. Employees can reach those messages and appointments via telephone, Web browser or Microsoft’s Outlook program. The software also offers new tools that help employees to work with one another.

With its new collaboration software, Oracle hopes to siphon off Microsoft’s existing customers. It is especially targeting those who are moving to the company’s latest Exchange server or who might be upset with Microsoft’s new pricing policy, which encourages companies to sign up for automatic software upgrades. Oracle also is looking for new ways to generate revenue because its main database and application businesses have seen steep declines over the last year.

Oracle’s pitch comes as companies are trying to reduce expenses, especially by consolidating the number of computers and servers they manage and maintain, says Mark Levitt, a vice president at market research firm International Data Corp. E-mail, Oracle argues, has become so important that it needs to be supported by software that is more durable than the kind that Microsoft offers currently through its Exchange server. Customers can keep using Microsoft Outlook on their desktop computers and can use Oracle software on their server computers, Oracle says.

“E-mail is one of the most critical applications your enterprise owns,” said Oracle Chief Financial Officer Jeff Henley. “That’s our space. We think this is more of our market than Microsoft’s.” Oracle says the new suite could cost as little as $60 a user.

Oracle’s software does more than support e-mail. This version of the collaboration suite emphasizes real-time capabilities such as allowing employees in different locations using different computers to draw on and view the same electronic “white board” simultaneously. The software also lets office workers use online tools like the electronic white board while connecting employees via conference call. And Oracle is offering its collaboration software as a hosted service, so customers have the option of letting Oracle manage and maintain the software. That lets Oracle challenge Microsoft in the market for small and midsize businesses, which is considered Microsoft’s home turf.

TECH TALK: Good Books: Warren Buffet and the Ultimate Business Resource

The Real Warren Buffet: Managing Capital, Leading People
By James OLoughlin

I have not followed much of Warren Buffets life and moves because I always viewed him as a savvy investor. My view changed when, in a recent discussion on books as part of our informal gathering, I heard excerpts from this book on Buffet.

Warren Buffet came across as one of the smartest and sharpest minds that Ive come across. His life has not just bene about managing money. His leadership skills may have been underplayed but his CEOs (from the companies he has acquired) prefer him to being on their own. The result: not a single CEO of the firms Buffet has bought (and consequently, made the CEOs rich) has left him.

At the heart of the book is OLoughlins discussion on Buffets Circle of Competence, which is a meta-model, a sythesis of the array of mental models that he brings to bear in his analysis of the world. It is a model that does not go in for completeness. It is a model that recognizes that some things that are knowable are not important. It also accepts that some other things that are important are unknowable. It is a model that, to the exclusion of all else, focuses on the important and knowable.

Adds the author about Buffet:

1. He establishes what he knows by identifying the truths, the dynamics that sit behind them, and their relationships to each other.
2. He ensures that he knows by a process of inversion whereby he seeks to disprove his prior conclusions.
3. He checks that he knows by seeking out feedback from the consequences of his decision.

If there is one book on Buffet that you are going to read, it has to be this.

Business: The Ultimate Business Resource
By Daniel Goleman et al.

This book has to be seen to be believed. It weighs 4 kgs and has more than 2,000 pages. It has 140 best practice essays from some of the leading names in the world of business and management, 116 management checklists, summaries of 70 most influential business books, and over 100 biographies of business thinkers and pioneers. Its not done yet! The book also includes a dictionary of business words and phrases, a collection of facts and statistics on almost every country and industry, and finally, plenty of additional resources of information.

Writes Business Week in a review on the best reason to buy the book: Most people in business start in narrow disciplines for which specialized knowledge is important. But as they move higher in organizations, they are increasingly required to perform tasks that fall outside their specialty and they are likely to find themselves managing people. So for many execs moving up the ranks, this volume, largely because it is so comprehensive, is a worthwhile starter.

At a list price of USD 60 (Rs 1,790 at Strand Book Shop in Mumbai), it is also quite a deal.

Next Week: More Good Books

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