SAP’s Leo Apotheker dismisses Oracle’s bid for power

The CEO of SAP was next up on the stage here in the Opera district of Paris, a man who speaks in measured tones but isn’t frit of Oracle at all.

Apotheker said: “I know it sounds really nice to have Oracle as a nemesis, but there’s a bigger  world out there. I don’t spend my entire day worrying about Oracle, that would be  somewhat stupid. There are major changes happening out there and I can only agree  with my esteemed colleague from Nokia, you take the competition as it is.”

Oracle, according to interrogator Alex Vieux of Red Herring, is one of the four or five oligopolies in the tech world.

Apotheker admits that it is hard to make SAP exciting. But, he said: “We are at the intersection of business and technology. You have to look at  business trends and technology trends. You have to talk about sustainability and as in every

other crisis there’s major shocks in technology as well. Cloud is what everyone

is talking about, and the ubiquitous capability of the networks.”

SAP’s next big thing is In memory databases. He said that these  will give the ability to create real true time enterprise and the really important thing for his business is the convergence of these trends.

SAP will extend its tendrils into developing countries, he said. “In Latin America we are very big, in every single Latin American company including

Brazil, Argentina and Chile.” Africa is also interesting to SAP. He said that there are already signs of convergence and development in countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.

One of the problems is that internet capability in many of the African countries has to be by satellite,  which is very expensive. But, he said, fibre optic cables going to the west and to the east of  Africa are going to change things a lot.

“I believe if you want to be a player in the long term, you have to be consistent.  We persistently want to show the African or Latin American company that we want to be a long term partner,” he said.

It’s lonely at the top, said Apotheker. “Once you are the sole CEO there are certain decisions that you have to make  alone. It brings loneliness sometimes but I knew this and you have to keep your eyes wide open.”

Now SAP has to make its technology appealing as if its software were for consumers. People don’t buy technology for its own sake any more and it’s now a question of how technology is used, whether that be in the enterprise or the consumer space.

SAP will continue to buy companies – its biggest recent acquisition was Business Objects, but it looks to acquire in specific and targeted areas, he said. SAP is in a smaller niche than IBM. We are a smaller niche and I don’t

see why we should be in the hardware business. We’re not in the database business

because I believe we can change the way things are done.

He said: “We are in business which hasn’t the glamour that consumer companies have. We put a  a payroll system into a mining company in Africa. There’s nothing very exciting  about it. It’s not that sexy but it’s pretty damn important. SAP has to be  considered to be very reliable.”  

Would IBM or Microsoft buy SAP? Apotheker declined to answer that question. SAP isn’t interested in buying IBM, he quipped.