Larry Ellison's absence hurts Oracle

In spite of a valiant and unexpected effort, Howard Dean's 2004 run for the White House will always be remembered for one unfortunate sound bite. This is a perfect analogy with regard to this year's RSA Conference and software giant Oracle.

Oracle obviously wanted to put its best foot forward. The company's booth was substantial and unavoidable, right in front of the entrance to the show floor. In a year when one of the main topics at RSA was identity management, Oracle's visionary strategy and aggressive execution was one of the more refreshing nuances at Moscone Center this year.

Everything was going so well, and then Larry didn't show up for his keynote speech. He apparently had the flu.

To be clear, I have no reason to question whether Larry was actually sick. What I can report as fact is that Larry's absence was not well received by the security community. A disappointed audience left the Moscone Center en masse when it was announced that Larry would not be participating. Finger-pointing and rumors immediately ensued--"Larry found something better to do" and "Another proof point that Oracle doesn't care about security." I heard comments like these hundreds of times this week.

Oracle had a chance to really shine at this year's RSA Conference, but Larry's untimely absence moved the company to the security doghouse. In other words, Oracle went from hero to zero on the biggest security stage in the world in front of this year's record-breaking crowd.

In some cases, perception is reality.

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