Oracle's controversial CEO, Larry Ellison, is back in the news again, explaining how he could have owned Apple had he wanted to go through with it, and explaining why his company's latest database, Oracle 8i, will replace Windows as an operating system. Ellison also provided some information about Microsoft's stranglehold on the computer industry.
Hold on tight.
Ellison says his attempt to buy Apple in 1997 would have happened had a lawyer not warned him about problems he'd have because of insider information.
"I was at \[my lawyer's\] offices and I wanted to buy \[Apple\] at $13 a share but my lawyer said I knew too much," Ellison says. "I decided it just wasn't that much to me to deal with Justice lawyers. I walked away from a deal to buy Apple Computer at $13 a share." Apple's stock is now in the upper 30's.
Ellison attributes Apple's current successes to Steve Jobs.
"I don't know how long he is going to stay, because I don't think Steve knows--but I don't see him leaving anytime soon," he said.
As for Oracle 8i replacing Windows, Ellison says that the product's most innovative feature, "WebDB," allows the database to run completely within any Web browser. The "i" in "Oracle 8i" stands for "Internet" and Ellison wanted to drive home the fact that the database is Internet-enabled. How this will unseat Windows is unclear to everyone but Ellison, I suppose. The product still needs to run on some operating system.
The Gates comments came during Ellison's introduction to Oracle 8i, and Ellison generally finds the time to slide conversation in that direction. Ellison recounted two incidents where Gates was able to stop hardware development projects at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC, now part of Compaq) by threatening to halt development of Windows NT for Digital's Alpha processor. One project involved a Network Computer (NC) for which Oracle would have provided the software. Digital was going to manufacture 500,000 units.
"Bill Gates is the pope of the personal computer industry--he decides who's going to build a PC," Ellison said.
Ellison also described how Gates prevented Intel CEO Andy Grove from backing a unified version of UNIX that would have run on Intel chips. The plan for a unified UNIX was backed by IBM, Sun, AT&T and other companies, but fell apart because of infighting and, allegedly, because Intel dropped support for the plan due to pressure from Microsoft.
"I don't know if the government is going to breakup Microsoft's monopoly, but the Internet is going to breakup Microsoft's monopoly position," said Ellison