Mark Hurd, the scandal-tarred Silicon Valley veteran who was forced out as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, made his first public appearance Monday as one of Oracle’s two new co-chief executives. But the markets weren’t buying what Hurd was selling. Oracle stock fell in late-day trading.
Hurd was named co-CEO, along with former CFO Safra Catz, Sept. 18 after founder Larry Ellison stunned the tech industry by announcing he would step down from Oracle’s corner office to take a technology development role.
Hurd delivered a keynote at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, an annual event at which company execs outline strategy for the following year to a roomful of customers, analysts and media. His task was, and remains, to convince stakeholders Oracle can grow revenues from cloud, or Internet-based, computing fast enough to offset declining hardware revenues and a dearth of new sales of commercial software licenses to large companies.
Hurd, who stepped down from HP in 2010 after the board accused him of spending company funds to facilitate a relationship with D-list actress Jodie Fisher, kicked off his remarks with the curious comment that his cup of Starbucks coffee being “as close as I get to drugs.” He then proceeded to act more like a Home Shopping Network host than a Fortune 500 chief executive. On stage, he cut the price of Oracle’s new Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance, a piece of hardware that businesses can use to protect corporate information, by 15 percent for show attendees.
Throughout his keynote, Hurd stressed Oracle is embracing the cloud, which Ellison once dismissed as “insane.” Hurd said “the cloud is exploding” as large enterprises move away from “20-year-old software,” much of it sold by Oracle itself, on which they have relied to run everything from accounting systems to supply-chain operations. Hurd noted Oracle this week unveiled 171 new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud applications, including 32 tailored to specific industries like manufacturing and healthcare.
Oracle’s problem is it’s not alone in its recognition the cloud is fast-becoming the dominant architecture for enterprise computing. It faces younger, more nimble competitors like Workday and Netsuite.
“They’re making some progress but they’re not considered a contender in the cloud yet, and they clearly have to fix that,” analyst Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group said.
Oracle shares were off 1.4 percent in the final hour of trading Monday, a sign that, as far as Wall Street is concerned, the jury is still out on Oracle’s transition to the cloud -- and on Hurd.