A judge has sided with HP in its lawsuit with Oracle and the big winners are the company’s joint customers.
A judge ruled that HP didn’t trick Oracle into promising continued support for Itanium servers, as Oracle had been claiming.
This fight started when Oracle hired ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd. HP sued. The two settled. As part of that settlement, Oracle promised that it would “continue to offer its product suite on HP platforms … in a manner consistent with [the Oracle-HP] partnership as it existed prior to Oracle’s hiring of Hurd.”
Then HP hired ex-Oracle executive Ray Lane as its new chairman. Lane had famously been Larry Ellison’s right-hand man and the split up between the two was ugly. Lane turned around and convinced the HP board to hire Léo Apotheker, the ex-CEO of SAP, one of Oracle’s biggest rivals, as the new CEO of HP.
Oracle alleged that HP hid the fact it was planning to hire Apotheker and Lane when it negotiated the agreement over Hurd and that those two men were “toxic” to any partnership with Oracle.
Oracle said that when it announced it would stop supporting Itanium, it believed Intel would soon retire the chip. It claimed that HP was secretly paying Intel millions annually to “artificially continue” the Itanium chip’s lifespan. Oracle also insisted it wasn’t the only one that HP lied to about the future of the Itanium chip. Oracle accused HP of lying to customers, analysts, and just about everybody else over the chip.
HP’s high-end servers run on Intel’s Itanium chips, a version of Intel’s x86 chips jointly developed between HP and Intel and never widely adopted beyond HP’s servers. Other software companies like Microsoft stopped making software for Itanium. Not having Windows on Itanium is one thing, as HP has its own operating system. Not having Oracle’s database on the servers — that would be a bigger blow.
But the judge told Oracle that regardless of what HP said about the chip, that this “did not prevent Oracle from participating in the negotiations” when coming up with the Hurd settlement “or deprive Oracle of the opportunity to negotiate.”
Oracle’s arguments do seem lame given that Oracle had just spent $7.4 billion to buy Sun and now has an entire line of servers that compete with HP’s Itanium servers.
But in the end, both companies may wind up looking bad. The judge also refused to seal documents and e-mails with the case. So who knows what other family squabbles might be revealed?