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PeopleSoft's Conway maintains defiant tone

PeopleSoft's Conway maintains defiant tone

With 15,000 attendees at PeopleSoft's Connect user show waiting to hear how the company would address Oracle's lingering hostile takeover bid, PeopleSoft Chief Executive Officer Craig Conway tackled the issue early in his opening keynote on Tuesday.

"Have you ever had a bad dream that wouldn't seem to end?" he asked, scoring applause from the customer-filled crowd. The applause turned to cheers when he ticked off all the obstacles that still block Oracle, and said the recent court decision dismissing the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to kill the deal on antitrust grounds "does not mean PeopleSoft will be acquired by Oracle."

Conway kept his Oracle-related remarks brief, but he maintained the defiant tone PeopleSoft has struck throughout Oracle's 15-month campaign to win control of the company through an all-cash tender offer to PeopleSoft's shareholders, now valued at US$7.7 billion.

"PeopleSoft has had a year that has tested our resolve. It has been a year that stretched our resources," Conway told the San Francisco audience. "But we didn't blink, and we're not going to blink."

Conway wove emotional appeals throughout his upbeat speech, pausing at one point to salute PeopleSoft founder and chairman David Duffield and wish him a happy birthday today. Later, he earned a round of laughter from the crowd for a story about what Conway called the other, non-Oracle great stress in his life in the past year -- his 11-year-old son's private school applications.

Conway spent most of his address highlighting PeopleSoft's accomplishments in the past year, including what he deemed the successful integration of J.D. Edwards & Co. and an array of updates in PeopleSoft's core Enterprise product line and in the EnterpriseOne and World lines it picked up from J.D. Edwards.

Conway also detailed a pact PeopleSoft announced Tuesday with IBM, a sales and development alliance Conway called the deepest so far between the companies.

Conway used the occasion to take a few swipes at SAP, which experienced strong sales in the past year while PeopleSoft struggled. SAP's NetWeaver middleware initiative is nothing more than an attempt to camouflage weaknesses in its software design, he charged. Conway characterized IBM's rival WebSphere portfolio as "exponentially more mature, and already trusted."

One PeopleSoft customer attending the keynote, Agilent Technologies. Americas HRIT Development Manager Andy Nallappan, said he sees the IBM alliance as a good move on PeopleSoft's part -- and one that may create yet another obstacle for Oracle, as PeopleSoft extends its ties to one of Oracle's main rivals.

Agilent is an Oracle customer -- its infrastructure beneath PeopleSoft is built on Oracle and Microsoft's Windows XP technology -- but Nallappan said he still prefers to see PeopleSoft remain independent. He'd hoped Conway would talk more about the Oracle bid than he did: "He played it very low-key," Nallappan said. "I expected something more. I think a lot of people came here to get answers."

Attendee John Schenken also wished for more discussion about Oracle. "It's so unclear what's really happening with the Oracle deal," he said. "Craig didn't say much, but I guess he really can't."

Schenken, director of applications development for Liberty, Missouri, propane supplier Ferrellgas, said he isn't worrying about Oracle because "why worry about what you can't control?" Still, he said he sees little advantage for PeopleSoft customers in the company being acquired.

Others in the audience said they appreciated Conway's positive tone and overview of the company's accomplishments and plans. "I thought it was very upbeat and informative," said Janet Leonard, a financial accountant with South San Francisco-based biotech firm Genentech.


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