Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Marc Benioff Yanked From Oracle OpenWorld Speech

The quietly simmering feud between Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and CEO Marc Benioff has just erupted into a new public spat.

Benioff tweeted tonight that he’s been bounced from the speakers roster at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, and he’s blaming the decision directly on Ellison.

Larry just cancelled my keynote tomorrow! Sorry #oow11! Join me @ St. Regis AME Restaurant at 10:30AM! The show must go on! Sorry Larry!
Marc Benioff

I just got a statement from Oracle’s Deborah Hellinger, who says the move was simply a change in schedule, and had more to do with the heavy attendance at the conference than anything else.

“Due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld we had to make several session changes,” Hellinger wrote. “The Executive Solution Session was moved to Thursday at 8:00am in the Novellus Theatre.”

Thursday is, notably, the last day of the conference — there are no other speaker sessions on the roster for that day, and this change to Thursday’s schedule hasn’t been made to the Oracle OpenWorld Web site. However, it has been updated: There’s no longer any mention of Benioff’s once-scheduled Wednesday keynote.

Benioff, who is a former Oracle employee, had been scheduled to speak at the Novellus Theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday at 10:30 am. He has since set up an alternate venue — a restaurant at San Francisco’s St. Regis Hotel.

Here’s one possible reason: Benioff’s recent Dreamforce conferences, held in San Francisco and elsewhere, have contained a lot of references to the “false cloud,” and have included Oracle in that description.

Also, it wasn’t for nothing that Oracle, which does a significant business in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, advertised heavily around the time of Salesforce’s recent Dreamforce conference. Salesforce, as we all know, does CRM in the cloud, and has a lot of momentum behind it of late. This could just be Larry Ellison’s way of expressing his unhappiness with Benioff.

Chances are there will be more of a backstory to this new round of Oracle mishegas in the morning. For now, here’s an excerpt of a recent Benioff speech in Boston, in a video shot by IDG’s Computerworld. The final slide shows an Oracle Exadata machine with its logo barely obscured. Makes you wonder why Oracle offered Benioff a speaking slot in the first place — and why Benioff accepted it.

Update: Well, here’s an interesting wrinkle. It seems that when CEOs speak at these conferences, often, but not always, they pay a fee for the privilege to do so. In this case, as Benioff has told Quentin Hardy at the New York Times, Benioff had paid Oracle $1 million for stage time at Oracle’s conference, and would have likely delivered some variation of the “false cloud” speech he’s been giving of late. Someone at Oracle may not vetted speakers carefully enough and gave Benioff a slot — he did have one last year. Ellison, I’m told, got wind of it, and being aware that Benioff has been slamming Oracle in his speeches lately, canceled the date.

Still, Benioff can declare victory — and he is doing just that. Taking a page from Ellison’s own playbook, he’s managed to pick a fight, and is scoring some publicity points from having drawn Ellison’s ire. As Benioff told the Times: “This is the best possible outcome … “It’s free publicity, and it is clear that Oracle is threatened by us.”

Also? He gets his money back.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus