SAN FRANCISCO/BOSTON (Reuters) - The increasingly bitter rivalry between technology giant Oracle Corp and faster-growing challenger Salesforce.com Inc erupted at Oracle’s annual user’s conference as the two companies feuded over the timing of a speech.
The brouhaha began late on Tuesday night, when Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff Tweeted that Oracle had abruptly canceled a speech he was due to make Wednesday on “cloud” computing. Benioff gathered his audience anyway at a nearby hotel restaurant and gave his talk.
A source at Oracle who asked not to be named said that Benioff’s claim was misleading, and that Oracle had changed the time of the speech, not canceled it.
Oracle had the right to do so, because Salesforce had agreed to possible scheduling changes when it rented out the venue for the speech at the user’s conference, which is being held this week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the source said.
Oracle moved the Salesforce speech to 8 a.m. Pacific Time on Thursday from 10 a.m. on Wednesday to accommodate an Oracle customer event that was oversold and needed a larger venue, the source added.
Salesforce, which said it spent about $1 million to rent the venue for the speech and floor space in a nearby exhibition hall at the user’s conference, is the biggest provider of software delivered via the Internet, or “the cloud.”
Oracle is eager to catch up as that is one of only a handful of rapidly growing areas in the technology sector.
The rivalry is among the most closely watched in the business world, partly because it involves two of the biggest personalities in Silicon Valley: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Benioff.
Multibillionaire Ellison, who founded Oracle more than 30 years ago, is a flamboyant playboy known for his wit, business genius and aggressive business tactics.
Benioff, a former Oracle executive who recruited Ellison as one of Salesforce.com’s early board members and later fired him, is an evangelist for cloud computing and legendary salesman who advises customers to use social media to promote their products — which is exactly what he did when he complained via Twitter.
“Oracle just canceled my keynote tomorrow. But the show must go on! Everyone is welcome to join me at Ame Restaurant tomorrow to hear about the social enterprise,” he said in the Tweet. His original venue seats 700 people.
“Sorry Larry, the cloud can’t be stopped,” Benioff said in a jibe at his former boss.
Some 45,000 Oracle customers paid to attend this year’s annual conference where computer engineers, software developers and technology buyers learn about new products and features in Oracle’s software and hardware for corporate data centers.
Ellison was scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon in the convention center’s keynote auditorium, which accommodates more than 10,000 people.
Salesforce.com shares were down 1 percent at $116.49 at mid-afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. Oracle shares rose 2.5 percent to $29.40 on Nasdaq.
Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Maureen Bavdek and Richard Chang