Short Cuts 64

by Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens takes a sideways look at the world of IT.

HardCopy Issue: 64 | Published: October 30, 2014

End of an era

So farewell then Larry Ellison – or not, as the case may be. While the ‘Ellison quits as Oracle CEO’ headlines suggested a seismic industry event, the actuality was a bit less earth-shaking (see News, page 4). In fact it turned out to be business pretty much as usual at Oracle Towers, except that Larry no longer has to take personal responsibility for what Safra Catz and Mark Hurd get up to on the manufacturing and sales side, leaving him free to keep scratching his head about how on earth SAP (of all people) got a lead on them with its HANA in-memory database technology.

lionel richie

Former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison gives the opening keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2013 – or is it? (from photo by Barbie Young).

Catz and Hurd, meanwhile, now share the title of co-CEO, an arrangement that hasn’t always proved optimal in the past (think RIM/BlackBerry). Ms Catz’s track record is so solid you could build a Tier 4 datacentre on it, but Hurd’s is just a tiny bit more problematic, given that his relentless cost-cutting at HP did ruffle a few feathers, and he did leave after it was found that he’d been making ‘inaccurate’ expense claims on behalf of a former reality TV actress. Still, no-one’s perfect and we’re sure it’ll all work out fine.

Here at Short Cuts we do, however, love a seismic industry event, and Larry’s change of job title does, technically, mark the disappearance of the last of the great IT Founder/CEOs, people from the Golden Age with names like Gates, Jobs and, er, Phillipe Kahn of Borland (now Embarcadero) who made an ill-advised acquisition of dBase vendor Ashton-Tate and didn’t last the course. Short Cuts Hall of Fame rules are quite clear on this – you don’t qualify if your first product ran in a browser, which excludes youngsters like Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg on a permanent basis. Larry Ellison really was the last of the breed.


We should be told

For years the Short Cuts investigative team has been working on a story so big it couldn’t be told, but with the changes at the top of Oracle it can at last be aired, as we ask “Has slim, suave, moustachioed vocalist Lionel Richie really been Larry Ellison in a mullet wig all this time?” The evidence is compelling:

  • Both have first names starting with ‘L’. This is a recognised technique among people maintaining multiple identities, used to reduce the possibility of errors when signing autographs and amending stock options.
  • Their second names start with different letters, which together form the acronym ‘ER’, title of the hit TV series that launched the career of actor George Clooney, who also looks a bit like Ellison/Richie (only without the moustache).
  • The two men have never appeared on stage together, not even when Richie performed All Night Long at the closing ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics, in Oracle’s home state of California.
  • The title of All Night Long, Richie’s biggest hit, was in fact a subliminal advertising message designed to promote Oracle’s claimed uptime advantage over SQL Server (you’re mad – Ed).


What’s in a name?

So hello then Windows 9 – or not, as the case may be. Microsoft has decided to skip a generation and call the successor to Windows 8 Windows 10, a move which the company’s OS chief, Terry Myerson, explained by saying, “We’re not building an incremental product”, but which many will interpret as, “We want to put as much clear water as possible between this and the last one.”


Windows 10’s reborn Start menu – ignore the tiles on the right and it looks just like the real thing.

The desire for distance is understandable. The folks at Redmond must have thought the bad times were behind them when they sent Windows Vista to an early grave and replaced it with the generally well-received Windows 7. But – whoops – they blew it again with the very next release, and now it’s déjà vu repeating itself as they rush to roll back the Zune-inspired tiles ‘n touchery of Windows 8 and produce something a bit more palatable to the corporate market. Back, like a conquering hero, comes the Start Menu, new-fangled ‘Modern’ apps (now dubbed ‘Universal’) have to run on a proper desktop and take resizing like a man (well, like a Win32 app) and best of all there are improvements to the DOS prompt. That’s what we here at Short Cuts call progress.

It’s also good (and humbling) to see Microsoft taking our advice at last. Two years ago we warned that having three different operating systems (albeit all with ‘Windows’ in the name) to cover the phone/tablet market was a bad idea. Now the company seems to have taken that on board and then some, promising that Windows 10 will cover everything from the Internet of Things (aka ‘The Internet of fridges that really do have a mind of their own’) to corporate datacentres. Whether that actually translates into a single product line or three separate codebases all retailing as ‘Windows 10’ remains to be seen, but at least it’s a start.