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Oracle and BEA josh at JavaOne

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and BEA Systems Chief Executive Bill Coleman trade friendly jabs but agree Java competition is better than the Microsoft alternative.

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  Ellison: J2EE is high-octane Java
Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle
SAN FRANCISCO--Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and BEA Systems Chief Executive Bill Coleman traded friendly jabs Thursday, but agreed competition among Java software makers is better than the Microsoft alternative.

Coleman and Ellison spoke back-to-back at Sun Microsystems' JavaOne trade show here. They took turns trumpeting their Java products, needled each other, and together put down rival IBM's efforts in the lucrative market for e-business software.

After Coleman's speech, Ellison took the stage and came out swinging, arguing that Oracle's Java application server runs faster and costs less than BEA's and IBM's products. BEA and IBM rank first and second, respectively, in the $1.6 billion market for application servers, software that handles e-commerce and other Web site transactions.

Ellison recently said Oracle fell behind BEA in sales because of his company's poor support for the Java standard for writing business software, called Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). But he said Oracle's revamped product, released this week, is competitive and runs more than four times faster than BEA's offering.

"I believe we have leapfrogged them," Ellison said. "The biggest threat to Java is: Can we deliver the high performance? And can we run as fast as (Microsoft's) .Net (products)? That's the challenge, and that's why we threw away everything we had" for the revamp.

Ellison, who challenged Coleman to a race to support the next set of Java standards, spent most of his speech hammering at BEA. He showed slide after slide that he said illustrated why Oracle's application server is better than BEA's, quipping, "I'm sure Bill Coleman is thrilled with this presentation."

Coleman scoffed at Ellison's claims.

ColemanJavaOne "Larry made them up onstage. It was reality distortion," Coleman said in a press conference after the keynote speeches. "I welcome competition. A year ago, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle all came out with BEA killers, but the reality comes out, and BEA has the best performance. (Larry) made all these claims about performance, and a year later, he threw it all away."

Who's the Microsoft of Java?
Both executives, however, agreed the competition between software companies shows that the Java effort is making an impact.

For years, Sun, BEA, Oracle, IBM and others have supported and worked to improve the Java standard to combat rival Microsoft, which uses its own proprietary programming model for software. The mantra over the past few years among Java supporters has been to collaborate on the Java standard but compete on the software that results from the standard.

"This is how the Java community works," Ellison said. "We're competing with each other for your business. This makes Java better, and that's what you want us to do. The whole benefit of an 'open' platform is you're not locked into anybody. Just because you have BEA now doesn't mean you have to have it forever. They are not the Microsoft of Java."

Coleman expressed similar sentiments about the Java community during his speech. He hailed the Java Community Process, Sun's effort to manage and improve the Java standard. Instead of moving the programming language to an industry-standards group, Sun developed a process by which IBM, Oracle, BEA and other Java companies can update the standard.

"We're not here (hoping) it works--like the (Java) pioneers were six years ago," he said. "This community just took it everywhere."

Meta Group says IBM and BEA will ultimately capture the lion's share of the Java development tool environment--once their tool sets are fully developed.

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Coleman, who spoke first, got off the first shots. Moments before Ellison took the stage, Coleman said, "I made it through this entire presentation without blowing up. I can't guarantee that for the next guy."

When he walked onstage, Ellison said, "I'm the next guy," getting a laugh from the crowd.

"It's always exciting to follow the market leader (for application servers)...I like being the other guy for a change," Ellison said, referring to Oracle's market leadership in database software and the intense competition he faces from rivals IBM and Microsoft in that market.

This wasn't the first time Ellison has gone after BEA. In December, Oracle executives guaranteed that their company's application server runs faster than BEA's technology. If not, they said, Oracle would pay customers $1 million.

Both executives scoffed at marketing claims by IBM. Coleman refuted the company's assertions about capturing market share, while Ellison dismissed IBM's comments that Oracle's products are more expensive.

IBM executives could not be reached for immediate comment. But according to Giga Information Group, IBM has 30 percent of the market, compared with BEA's 35 percent.

Ellison, however, told Java developers to test everyone's software and find out for themselves which products are better and cheaper before deciding what to buy.

After the speeches, Sun Microsystems executive Jon Kannegard walked onstage and joked, "Welcome to the J2EE smackdown."