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HP, Oracle clash over software partnerships in closing trial arguments

Stephen Lawson | June 27, 2012
Lawyers for Hewlett-Packard and Oracle argued opposite views of independent software vendors' obligations to hardware makers on Tuesday in the closing arguments of a lawsuit over Oracle's decision to stop porting its products to HP's Itanium platform.

"None of this is done to please any partner. It is done because there is money to be made," Wall said. If HP had wanted a porting contract with Oracle, it should have negotiated one, as the two companies did in an agreement on Oracle's E-Business Suite, he said.

HP's lawyer said Oracle and HP did agree to specific terms for the Hurd Agreement, including an Itanium porting commitment, but Oracle wanted the language in the final document to remain general.

Oracle ported its software to Itanium for years with no contract and encouraged HP to rely on its software, Thomas said. During the trial, HP said about 80 percent of Itanium customers run Oracle software.

"When that relationship seemed to be in doubt or in danger ... HP asked Oracle to put those assurances into a formal, binding contract, and Oracle agreed to do that," Thomas said.

Days of testimony over the past month, some of it recounting emotional confrontations over, Oracle's porting announcement, and other events, came down in the end to how the final wording in the Hurd Agreement was reached. HP's argument returned frequently to an email message sent by Oracle Chief Counsel Dorian Daley during the negotiations that referred specifically to Itanium porting. HP said Oracle never retracted that statement. Oracle said its co-President, Safra Catz, never made a commitment to porting and explicitly rejected the idea during talks with then-HP enterprise chief Ann Livermore. Catz has called the companies' re-affirmation of their partnership nothing more than "a corporate hug."

Much is at stake for the companies in addition to the tens of thousands of customers they serve together and the billions of dollars in annual revenue those customers represent. HP's Itanium, and the Solaris server platforms that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in early 2010, are high-end systems designed for marquee clients in government and private enterprise.

HP is seeking unspecified damages as well as an order forcing Oracle to do three things: Continue porting to Itanium all the products it was offering for the platform before it hired Hurd, keep porting new versions of the software to Itanium until HP stops selling that line of servers, and not charge HP for the porting.

Oracle has filed a counterclaim in which it says HP hid its plans to phase out Itanium and defamed Oracle by saying the company's charges about Itanium weren't true.


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