While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, sniping is the most transparent. As the enterprise IT sector evolves, with former specialists aspiring to become generalists, the major players increasingly find themselves encroaching on each other's space.
Oracle has got where it is today by providing enterprise software, while HP is principally a hardware-maker. But acquisitions such as Sun by Oracle and EDS, Palm and 3PAR by HP show how their worlds are increasingly colliding.
But the growing tension between Oracle and HP is best illustrated by recent changes at the top. HP got rid of its CEO, who was swiftly snapped-up by Oracle to be one of CEO Larry Ellison's co-presidents. Then HP went to SAP - historically Oracle's biggest competitor - to get Hurd's replacement. Surely there can be no clearer statement of the desire these two companies have to get in each other's faces.
Well it turns out there is - gobbing-off to the media. Having previously slagged-off the HP board for getting rid of Mark Hurd in an email to the NYT, Ellison ensured the WSJ didn't feel left out by offering his latest broadside to it.
Showing either a keen sense of irony or an utter lack of self-awareness - you decide which - Ellison wrote: "I'm speechless," before going on to rave at the HP board. "HP had several good internal candidates...but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP," spoke Ellison.
"None of the HP board members own much HP stock so they have little to lose. But the HP employees, customers, partners and shareholders will suffer. The HP board needs to resign en masse ... right away. The madness must stop."
HP's response to the WSJ was quite amusing; a spokesperson said Ellison's comments don't deserve the dignity of a response. Meanwhile ZDNet made a good point. Oracle is generally tight-lipped in response to queries about itself, in the author's experience, so it's a bit galling to see the CEO himself being so quick to hold-forth about his competitors.