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Oracle seeks to ease PeopleSoft customer jitters

In memo to PeopleSoft user organizations, Oracle outlines plans for keeping them in the fold.

Oracle appears to be putting its money where its mouth is after sealing its merger with PeopleSoft last week--acting quickly to reassure uncertain new customers of its good intentions.

The very day the companies announced their $10 billion marriage, Oracle President Charles Phillips called the heads of numerous PeopleSoft customer organizations. His mission: to smooth out strained relations resulting from an 18-month hostile takeover struggle.

Among the groups Phillips spoke with was Quest International Users Group, an 8,000-member support organization for customers of J.D. Edwards, a software company PeopleSoft acquired last year that initially opposed the Oracle buyout. Quest President Fred Pond said that while he was heartened by Phillips' call, the group's members remain wary of the merger.

"We weren't looking for multiple mergers or transitions," Pond said. "These are the cards that are dealt to us, so we're going to step up like we did 18 months ago (with PeopleSoft)."

Quest's members are particularly apprehensive about the Oracle merger because of what Pond characterized as poor treatment from PeopleSoft after the J.D. Edwards buyout. Looking to streamline its user group activities, PeopleSoft pulled its speakers from Quest's annual conference following a disagreement over the terms of its participation in the event. That left Quest, whose members represent 2,000 different businesses, feeling snubbed.

It appears that Oracle wants to avoid making similar public-relations gaffes. Along with calls to customer group leaders, the company sent them a memo outlining its support plans, organized in eight neat bullet points.

Among the bullets: Oracle will ensure that customers experience very little disruption as a result of the merger; Oracle will work with database rivals IBM and Microsoft to provide support to PeopleSoft customers "as long as working relationships can be maintained"; and Oracle will make upgrades to next-generation products "as straightforward as possible."

In the memo, Oracle also said PeopleSoft customers that wish to migrate to Oracle's applications and database products can do so free of licensing charges. "This will also include the equivalent underlying database licenses that are required to run the product, if the customer was using an alternative database for the PeopleSoft applications," Oracle said in the memo.

That offer is making IBM and Microsoft, who sell databases and other technical infrastructure to many PeopleSoft customers, more than a little nervous. In fact, Microsoft is fighting back with its own letter campaign, encouraging the customers to buy more Microsoft products.