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PeopleSoft announces new tools, knocks Ellison

At its annual user event, PeopleSoft laid out an enhanced support plan, introduced four new tools to automate software management and took a few digs at its favorite foe.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison raised plenty of eyebrows this summer with a now-infamous barb hurled at PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway and his dog. But at the opening of a PeopleSoft user event today, Conway and Abbey got the last laugh.

Conway and his black Labrador strolled onto the stage at PeopleSoft Connect 2003 sporting bulletproof vests, mocking the oft-repeated Ellison line: "If Craigey and [his dog] were standing next to each other and I had one bullet, trust me, it wouldn't be for the dog."

Given Ellison's contradictory stances on the support Oracle would offer for PeopleSoft products if the database giant's lingering takeover bid succeeds, Conway said, "Abbey and I have decided not to take any chances."

But humor quickly gave way to business.

Once Conway peeled off the flack jacket and escorted Abbey off stage, he laid out a vision for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based enterprise software firm before ending his hourlong welcome address with an emotional thank you to the 10,000 customers assembled.

"[Oracle's] tactic of uncertainty could have worked," Conway said, referring to his belief that the Oracle bid was an attempt to derail PeopleSoft's acquisition of J.D. Edwards & Co. and disrupt its business. But, he said, "customers refused to let that happen."

Sandwiched between the takeover talk was a pledge to expand PeopleSoft's Total Ownership Experience (TOE) initiative, an overarching plan to reduce the number of people required to manage enterprise software systems; grow the three product lines emerging from the recently completed J.D. Edwards deal; and enhance support and service.

Conway announced a new support policy, extending upgrade scripts that automate the move between releases from four years to five. The plan also lengthens tax tables and related regulatory change coverage to six years, at no additional cost to customers.

The enhancements benefit shops running PeopleSoft 8, J.D. Edwards 5 and PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne (PeopleSoft's newly re-branded midmarket line). Companies using PeopleSoft World, formerly J.D. Edwards' software for IBM Corp.'s iSeries platform, are not covered.

Though skeptics may claim the changes were designed to answer Oracle's pledge that it would support PeopleSoft products for 10 years, Gartner analyst Jeff Comport said: "Whether it's a response to Oracle or not, it's clearly a response to customers who want to decide whether to upgrade or not."

Though they elicited audience applause, the support changes offered little confidence to Holly Fong, who manages a deployment of PeopleSoft 7.5 Financials for a large government agency in California.

"I'm a bit disappointed," Fong said. "I thought we'd hear about some extended support [for PeopleSoft 7]. Why spend money on an upgrade when we aren't sure if Oracle will succeed?"

On the Total Ownership Experience front, PeopleSoft introduced four new tools to automate software installation, configuration, updates and performance tuning. It also announced six new Process Integration Packs for packaged business process integration to Oracle and SAP back-office software, including two for CRM, and a new task-oriented user interface for all applications.

Conway said PeopleSoft has identified 100 ownership improvements -- from automated patch updates to built-in performance monitoring -- and has dedicated 500 developers to TOE. He called TOE "the next great differentiator between PeopleSoft and our competitors."

Conway was most passionate, however, when discussing the combined PeopleSoft-J.D. Edwards, saying it has "an opportunity to do something great for customers and the industry." He promised that current PeopleSoft customers could leverage new asset-management and supply chain functionality and that J.D. Edwards' users would see enhancements in human resources, CRM, analytics and supplier relationship management capabilities.

PeopleSoft announced the first release in its new midmarket line, called PeopleSoft EntepriseOne, which includes 400 enhancements across 30 modules and claims to give customers great visibility into their supply chains, business performance and profitability. It also released PeopleSoft Enterprise Financial Management 8.8, the latest iteration of its financial applications.

Conway also touted PeopleSoft's accomplishments of the past year, including 30 applications -- a company record -- and new support for Linux.

As hard as PeopleSoft may be working to reassure customers that the Oracle takeover bid, which antitrust authorities are currently reviewing, is dead in the water, it continues to be on many customers' minds.

Consultancy Business Link for London went live with 400 seats of PeopleSoft 8.8 in June, the same month when Oracle launched its hostile bid.

"Obviously, it's a concern for us," said Richard Pemberton, Business Link's head of ICT. "It's quite ironic actually. We have to keep an eye on it. But being in the IT industry for a while, I've seen Oracle do this before."

Ingolf Wald, general manager at German airline firm Lufthansa, said his company chose PeopleSoft because of a personal commitment from Conway. With 1,500 users working with PeopleSoft 8.4 for service, sales and marketing, Wald said he has no choice but to remain hopeful that PeopleSoft can fend off Oracle.

"I am confident in the company," he said. "What happens if Oracle takes over? I have no idea."


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