Reporter's Notebook: Oracle OpenWorld 2009

Highlights and lowlights from this year's show: Cloud talk eclipsed by real-life rain, too many #oow09 tweets, not enough specifics about Fusion or Java plans, and an action-packed visit by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. CIO.com's Thomas Wailgum shares his favorite tidbits from the Ellison extravaganza.

The buzz of the entire Oracle OpenWorld 2009 conference surrounded CEO Larry Ellison's closing keynote on Fusion Applications. And while the packed auditorium at the Moscone Center heard more information than ever before on the next-generation suite of ERP and business applications ("We've got screenshots!"), there was a sense of disappointment and "been there, done that" when Ellison vaguely mentioned that Fusion Apps would be available "next year."

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison OpenWorld
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison speaks to the masses.

As in 2010. And, as many Oracle watchers continue to speculate, it's definitely not looking like it's going to be January.

Soon after Ellison's keynote came the Cheers and Jeers on Twitter:

Cheers @rwang0: Loving the BI (Hyperion) dashboards on the Fusion Demo #oow09 #larryellison #oracle #fusionapps

Jeers @shaneschick: It's hard to take Oracle's upcoming Fusion applications seriously when they've still got so much more to fuse. #oow09

California Governor-nator Arnold Schwarzenegger took over the main stage on Wednesday and addressed the "pumped up" crowd, talking about how much he loves all things tech. The one-time action-movie hero addressed the embarrassing situation that his wife, Maria Shriver, created. Gossip-site TMZ caught her (on video) talking on her mobile device while driving—which breaks a law for which her husband had crusaded. His joke—about taking action against his wife for breaking the law and getting no action as a result—got huge laughs from the OpenWorld crowd.

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Near the end of Monday morning's opening keynote, Oracle brought up several global CIOs who had received its "CIO of the Year" awards—and then hurriedly ushered them off the stage. The CIOs represented companies that included: ForceTEC, Omron, Telecom Italia and J.M. Smucker. I heard from several attendees that Oracle might have missed a golden opportunity to have these CIOs—real, live CIOs—tell their stories to the masses. Why were they winners? What made them special? Show us a video or something. Those are the stories we all want to hear more of, especially at high-tech trade shows which are already so heavy with vendor sales pitches.

Speaking of the vendor pitch: Poor Ann Livermore. The EVP of HP's technology solutions group had a tough time-slot to deliver her presentation—right after the Monday morning opening keynote by Oracle co-presidents Safra Catz and Charles Phillips. Many of the 10,000-strong who had flooded the Moscone North auditorium began leaving in droves, heading to other sessions or meetings. But judging by comments I overheard and the #oow09 Twitter stream, some OpenWorld attendees thought that Livermore's keynote was more a sales pitch than a discussion on "Capitalizing on Technology Megatrends for Competitive Advantage," which was her chosen topic.

There was a lot of cloud talk. And even more real rain. A once-in-50-years deluge hit the City by the Bay. "We asked for clouds at OpenWorld, but this is beyond expectations," remarked Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, opening his Tuesday presentation.

Attendees of Benioff's presentation weren't sure how the SaaS CRM executive would respond to comments made by Ellison before OpenWorld began. (Ellison mocked Salesforce.com's "little itty-bitty application" for sales-force automation in a recent shareholder meeting.) Anyone hoping for some Benioff "trash talk" was sorely disappointed, as IDG News Service's Chris Kanaracus observes. "In the end," writes Kanaracus, "Benioff seemed more intent Tuesday on building bridges than burning them." (For more on how outsiders fare at OpenWorld, see Behind Enemy Lines: Salesforce.com and Rimini Street at Oracle OpenWorld.)

Oracle's theme this year was "Come with questions. Leave with answers." This tweet, during the presentation by Thomas Kurian (Oracle's EVP of product development) on Tuesday morning, made a lot of people laugh: "@nenshad: #oow09 Oracle OpenWorld: Come with questions, leave with more questions." Ouch.

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