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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle [Hardcover]

Larry Ellison , Matthew Symonds
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 2003
In a business where great risks, huge fortunes, and even bigger egos are common, Larry Ellison stands out as one of the most outspoken, driven, and daring leaders of the software industry. The company he cofounded and runs, Oracle, is the number one business software company. Perhaps even more than Microsoft's, Oracle's products are essential to today's networked world.
In Softwar, journalist Matthew Symonds gives readers exclusive and intimate insight into both Oracle and the man who made it and runs it. As well as relating the story of Oracle's often bumpy path to industry dominance, Symonds deals with the private side of Ellison's life. With unlimited insider access granted by Ellison himself, Symonds captures the intensity and, some would say, the recklessness that have made Ellison a legend.
With a new and expanded epilogue for the paperback edition that tells the story behind Oracle's epic struggle to win control of PeopleSoft, Softwar is the most complete portrait undertaken of the man and his empire -- a unique and gripping account of both the way the computing industry really works and an extraordinary life.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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From Publishers Weekly

Symonds was technology editor at the Economist when Ellison invited him to collaborate on a book about e-business, but the journalist decided he would rather write a profile of the software tycoon, one of Silicon Valley's most notorious figures. Oracle's database programs have become integral to the Internet and other networked computer systems, and Oracle's head is convinced that he can surpass Microsoft as the industry leader. But he's also developed a reputation for his aggressive corporate tactics and personal flamboyance. Ellison agreed to cooperate with the project, but as part of the deal, he reserved the right to respond, which he does in a series of running footnotes. Sometimes he only uses the opportunity to mouth business platitudes, but he also refutes stories, cracks jokes and even argues with other sources. Although the book deals extensively with Oracle's efforts to promote a new software package, it comes to life most when it follows Ellison outside the office-prepping his sailboat for a run at the America's Cup or overseeing the final touches on a Japanese garden complex. Symonds's near-total access to his subject leads to intimate observations that verge on personal advice, as when the writer suggests how best to handle a top Oracle executive or comments on the relationship between Ellison and his two children. But he remains objective enough to point out several mistakes in the past management of Oracle (many of which Ellison acknowledges or clarifies). Even without its unusual counterpoint, the book would stand as a compelling portrayal of one of the computer industry's most influential leaders.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

There has been a war brewing in the software industry that most computer users don't even know about. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, wants to supplant the current Windows-based client-server network architecture with a totally Internet-based solution that would simplify computing and make Microsoft's server software obsolete. Even now, Oracle is the dominant software in business; every time you do a Google search or buy something on Amazon.com, you are using it. Anyone who craves a play-by-play account of Ellison and the evolution of the number-one relational database in the world can really sink their teeth into this. There is a slightly bizarre twist to this high-tech tale: Ellison himself gets to throw in running commentary at the bottom of many pages, augmenting and often contradicting the author's text in his own brash style. Beware if you 're not up on your geekspeak, though, as the casual reader will get lost in all the IT systems acronyms thrown around, such as CRM, ERP, HR and TPC-C. More entertaining than the technical jargon is the ruthless backstabbing that goes on between Ellison and big-name competitors such as Microsoft, Seibel Systems, PeopleSoft and i2 Technologies. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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I first met Larry Ellison in his office at Oracle's Redwood Shores headquarters on December 8, 1997. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for those in the software industry. Sept. 23 2008
Format:Paperback
If you have ever worked with Oracle or competed against them; this book is a must read. It captures the competitive spirit of Larry Ellison and the resultant culture of his firm. The book highlights the "Perfect Storm" of Oracle's infamous encounter with the State of California and details Ellison's gamble in shifting the company from a vendor of client-server software to the E-Business Suite. Whether or not Symonds intended to draw analogies between Ellison's yachting "hobby" and his business pursuits it makes for a very interesting read.

After reading about Oracle's battles against Microsoft you can't help rooting for Ellison and his warrior leadership style.

As a salesperson in the software industry I found it a great read!

James Gingerich
Sr Partner Account Manager
Sybase
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended! April 29 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is a comprehensive, detailed collection of Larry Ellison anecdotes and quotes from people around him. Author Matthew Symonds occasionally interjects himself, but mostly lets his sources talk. Perhaps for fairness, he quotes many people who disagree with each other about important decisions at Oracle. Perhaps for journalistic objectivity, he generally refrains from judgment. This shows the reader every perspective, even if it doesn't define context, chronology or direction. You get all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, though you may want a clearer box top picture. Some of the technology coverage will intrigue only tech industry buffs, but overall you will learn a great deal of interesting information about Ellison and Oracle.
We also found that Ellison's character came most into focus when the book entered the world of yacht racing, his passion. The author also includes poignant, revealing anecdotes about Ellison's childhood and candid reports about his personal life. Larry Ellison was allowed to review the manuscript and his comments appear as counterbalancing footnotes on many pages. That guy, he always does things a new way - as you will see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended March 1 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is a comprehensive, detailed collection of Larry Ellison anecdotes and quotes from people around him. Author Matthew Symonds occasionally interjects himself, but mostly lets his sources talk. Perhaps for fairness, he quotes many people who disagree with each other about important decisions at Oracle. Perhaps for journalistic objectivity, he generally refrains from judgment. This shows the reader every perspective, even if it doesn't define context, chronology or direction. You get all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, though you may want a clearer box top picture. Some of the technology coverage will intrigue only tech industry buffs, but overall you will learn a great deal of interesting information about Ellison and Oracle. We also found that Ellison's character came most into focus when the book entered the world of yacht racing, his passion. The author also includes poignant, revealing anecdotes about Ellison's childhood and candid reports about his personal life. Larry Ellison was allowed to review the manuscript and his comments appear as counterbalancing footnotes on many pages. That guy, he always does things a new way - as you will see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book about a Very Interesting Company Feb. 5 2004
Format:Hardcover
A fascinating book. I should note that I worked at Oracle for 12 years (1989-1991), though much too far down in the hierarchy to have had dealings with Larry Ellison himself. But when Symonds writes about the people that I did know and work for and with, he hasn't struck a single false note. He has captured very accurately the Oracle culture--a lot of very bright and very driven people, with of course a few inevitable mistakes thrown in.
In this book, Ellison comes over as one of the most insightful leaders in SV in the 80s and 90s. I wasn't always able to see this side of him, as I kept hearing negative reports from those who had been subjected to his (earlier, and admitted by him in this book to have been wrong) MBR (management by ridicule) approach.
I believe Symonds has done an accurate evaluation of Ellison, and Ellison, in his footnotes, comes over as a thoughtful person able to admit where he was wrong.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting history Jan. 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
I was intersted in the history of relational. There is one lamentably brief chapter: System R, Sybase, Ingres, two-phased commit, stored procedures, etc. Apparently 4 was the first version written in C.
By the way, what happened to Power Objects (Oracle's answer to Visual Basic)? A victim of Ellison's internet epiphany, I assume?
Most is management history: Ray Lane, Geoff Squire etc. Good if you're interested.
You'll probably want to skip the girlfriends and sailboats.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of The Most Interesting People Alive Jan. 16 2004
Format:Hardcover
Are we any farther along in knowing the real story of Larry Ellison after this book? I think we are not but it is all very entertaining. To me he remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle ... as the saying goes.
We already knew that he had a lavish lifestyle and was fond of yachts and anything Japanese, which is quite ironic since Japan is a very submissive and bureaucratic society - the complete opposite of our American Horatio Alger Ellison. But maybe it is an appropriate association since the Japanese historically ruled by the sword and in modern times they rule their inferiors with undemocratic force and elaborate social pressures.
In any case Oracle is essentially what we knew all along. It is where one brilliant man calls the shots. It is a company run by a hard driving, energetic guy with a huge ego and extremely good in the modern business world. Anyone in his way is driven into the ground as he steam rolls over them. Even the author had to endure the imprint of Ellison's "two cents" on many pages in the book. That was a biography first.
Having said that, it is always nice to see some of the details spilled in a nicely crafted and entertaining fashion. Nobody can ever accuse Larry Ellison of not being a resounding success nor of being dull. For those reasons it is worth buying and reading and merits 4 stars. A good story but he still remains a mystery.
Jack in Toronto
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5.0 out of 5 stars Larry gets the last word
My first fear when I bought 'Softwar' was that Matthew Symonds would be overwhelmed by the aura of Larry Ellison, resulting in a glowing whitewash of the man and his empire. Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Merry X'mas Larry
I particularly enjoyed the pictures in this book -- especially the one when Larry was little holding his good brother. Read more
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A pretty good book for Larry Ellison!! The book heaps praises on Ellison even when it is ridiculing his short sighted approach. Read more
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