SAN FRANCISCO — PeopleSoft chief executive Craig Conway wasted no time during his keynote address at the company’s annual user conference reassuring customers that an Oracle takeover is not in its future.

But his comments on the issue that has plagued the software vendor for more than a year

were brief and disappointing for attendees who came to hear a more definitive answer on how the Oracle saga might play out in the coming months.

“”Have you ever had a bad dream that just won’t seem to end?”” Conway said to the 15,000 attendees. “”We have and it’s been going on for 15 months.””

Conway said the recent court decision dismissing the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to axe the Oracle takeover on antitrust grounds “”does not mean PeopleSoft will be acquired by Oracle.””

He cited several roadblocks that could thwart Oracle’s efforts including an appeal of the court’s decision by the DoJ, an ongoing antitrust investigation by the European Commission and an anti-takeover clause in PeopleSoft’s bylaws known as a poison pill.

Instead, Conway focused on an agreement his company has signed with IBM Corp. that will see PeopleSoft standardize its applications on the IBM middleware platform, while both vendors market the joint solutions. Conway said the deal, which calls for a joint investment in the initiative of US$1 billion over the next five years, is the most significant enterprise applications alliance in the history of the two companies.

“”The middleware infrastructure is so (fundamental) to the success of customers as they assemble these components. It calls for an enormously wide range of middleware products. IBM has the strongest layer of middleware,”” he said.

PeopleSoft and IBM will collaborate to deliver pre-integrated industry solutions in three vertical markets — telecom, financial services and insurance — and establish the first business process interoperability lab to drive integration, a pain point in most organizations, according to PeopleSoft’s regional vice-president of global services Stephan Scholl.

“”For every dollar spent on development, three more are spent on integration,”” he said. “”When there are hundred of integration point,”” those costs can add up.

PeopleSoft will integrate IBM middleware and development tools — including core components of WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Business Integration, WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Studio Application Developer — with its portfolio of applications. Both parties will also contribute resources, domain expertise, integration technologies and funding for marketing and sales programs.

Steve Mills, IBM Software Group’s senior vice-president, called the move a “”very important strategic investment from IBM’s perspective,”” and said the two companies share a goal of helping customers better integrate applications to create business processes.

“”There’s not a company anywhere in the world that isn’t talking about horizontal integration,”” Mills said.

At least one of the more than 700 Canadian customers in attendance applauded the announcement.

“”It’s a natural fit to see IBM and PeopleSoft getting closer,”” said Normand Houle, vice-president and chief information officer of Sodisco-Howden, a Montréal-based distributor of tools and services to independent hardware and home renovation dealers across Canada. Sodisco-Howden is a PeopleSoft customers that runs its applications on IBM’s iSeries platforms.

In another attempt to assure customers it’s business as usual at PeopleSoft, Conway pointed out some of the company’s accomplishments over the past year.

Many of these, he said, have been overshadowed by Oracle’s relentless attempts to acquire the company.

“”Today it takes 25 per cent less time to implement PeopleSoft than it did a year ago. There are 80 fewer steps to upgrade. We’ve improved the experience by 40 per cent already,”” he said.

The combination of the PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards organizations has been largely successful, Conway said.

In the first year of the merger, he said PeopleSoft has made more enhancements to the EnterpriseOne product line than J.D. Edwards did in the previous five years.

“”There have been more than 300 enhancements to date, with an additional 250 targeted by year-end,”” Conway said.

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