PeopleSoft extends upgrade deadlines

The software maker is extending customer-support and maintenance programs for a number of its software products, a move some interpret as a defense tactic against rival Oracle.

Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
Alorie Gilbert
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PeopleSoft is extending customer-support and maintenance programs for a number of its software products, a move some interpret as a defense tactic against rival Oracle and its promise to support PeopleSoft products for at least a decade if it acquires the company.

At its annual customer conference, which begins Monday in Anaheim, Calif., PeopleSoft plans to announce the new maintenance scheme for all versions of its PeopleSoft 8 business management applications. The company released the first version of its PeopleSoft 8 line, which now consists of 170 different products, three years ago. Full support for software would normally run out after four years from the purchase date, said Rick Bergquist, PeopleSoft's chief technology officer.

Under the new maintenance plan, customers will get two more years of software updates to keep their systems up-to-date with tax and regulatory changes, Bergquist said. PeopleSoft will also extend, from four years to five, the availability of so-called upgrade scripts, tools that automate the move from one release to another. General software patches and fixes will still be available for just four years, the same as always, he said.

Some interpret the development as a response to Oracle, whose unsolicited bid to buy PeopleSoft has erupted in the past four months into an epic public relations battle. Oracle said in June that should its acquisition bid succeed, it planned to support PeopleSoft's products for at least 10 years.

With time running out on support for some PeopleSoft 8 customers, "it has created an opportunity for (Oracle Chief Executive) Larry (Ellison) to go in and say we'll continue to support you," said Bruce Richardson, an analyst at AMR Research.

Bergquist said PeopleSoft's decision to give companies more time to upgrade was not about Oracle. "This is a response to our customer base and what they tell us would make them more effective at running their business," he said.

The new support plan also applies to some customers of J.D. Edwards, the software company PeopleSoft recently acquired. About 3,000 customers running J.D. Edwards 5, recently renamed PeopleSoft Enterprise One, fall under the new plan.

More than 3,000 customers of PeopleSoft World, the version of the J.D. Edwards application line that runs solely on the IBM AS/400, or iSeries, computer, have a different support schedule, Bergquist said. PeopleSoft isn't selling PeopleSoft World to new customers, just maintaining and updating the product line for current customers, he said.

PeopleSoft is hoping to get many PeopleSoft World customers to upgrade to its newer product lines, Bergquist said. To that end, the company is planning to release this week PeopleSoft Enterprise One 8.9, the latest version of J.D. Edwards' more modern line of applications. That release will finally surpass the older World line in terms of features and performance, Bergquist said. Before now, he said, there wasn't a lot of motivation for customers to migrate to the newer products.

PeopleSoft has given customers no deadline for such a move, promising to support the World product line as long as IBM supports the AS/400 computing platform, which first appeared in the 1980s. But AMR's Richardson predicts that eventually, "World goes out to pasture."

"They don't really want to have three platforms going forward," Richardson said.

At the customer conference, PeopleSoft also plans to talk up a new version of its accounting applications and some new features in upcoming releases designed to make application installation, setup and maintenance easier.