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Oracle and RightNow get engaged

The usual disclaimer: As I’m at RightNow Summit, you should know the company paid for my flight and accommodations. I am not being paid by RightNow for any comments or analysis I make. I’m also a bit tipsy at the moment, following a very nice dinner with awesome wine pairings. If the pink elephants make this entry less than it should be, I’ll fix it in the morning.

Vendor conferences usually are a good source for industry news, but this year’s RightNow Summit was host to a bombshell before it even started. Oracle announced its intent to acquire RightNow Technologies for $1.5 billion. The deal is far from final, and most of the RightNow employees were themselves still reacting to the news when guests were arriving. The press release is here; you can read news coverage here, and some sharp analysis here.

A lot has already been said on this topic, but I can’t let the opportunity pass me by–I’m at the conference, after all. The phrase on every observer’s lips is “culture clash,” and I must agree. But more than that, there’s a positioning clash as well. RightNow serves CRM from the contact center, putting it in an ideal position to help its users deliver solid customer experience. Oracle’s CRM products cover a wide range of possibilities, but (with some exceptions) its apps cater to the user before the customer. RightNow is a sensible investment for businesses all over the spectrum, from SMBs to massive enterprises; there are not many industry watchers who would recommend an Oracle deployment for anything smaller than a midsized enterprise that’s on a growth path. I’m not saying one is better; I’m saying they serve very different markets.

Oracle is a company that is very good at acquiring what it needs to build out its own solutions. I don’t doubt there’s a good reason for the acquisition, but I am not yet certain what it is. Clearly, Oracle wants the RightNow brand, not just the tech. I’ll be watching to see how this all plays out.

Whether the buyout goes through or not, RightNow is still moving forward. The Tuesday morning keynote, I’m told, will be a vision statement of how customer interaction will look 10 years from now. I’m not going to get any information about the Oracle deal, because any further statements by either company would be illegal, but I can tell the RightNow team is excited–guardedly optimistic, but excited. Greg Gianforte’s presentation will show why RightNow is a strong brand worth the trouble to acquire, and I think it can’t help but come out ahead.