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HP: Oracle is legally bound to reverse Itanium decision

Hewlett-Packard has sent Oracle a legal demand letter, which could be a precursor to a lawsuit.

Oracle's decision in March to stop developing software for Intel's Itanium chips is in violation of "legally-binding commitments" Oracle has made to Hewlett-Packard and the companies' approximately 40,000 shared customers, HP said Wednesday.

HP has sent Oracle a formal legal demand to reverse its decision. In a statement, HP hinted that a lawsuit could come next if Oracle doesn't meet its demands.

"HP believes that Oracle is legally obligated to continue to offer its software product suite on the Itanium platform and we will take whatever legal actions are available to us necessary to protect our customers' best interests and the significant investments they have made," the company said.

Oracle's decision represents an illegal attempt to force customers running Itanium-based HP servers over to its own hardware platforms, HP said.

HP spokesman Bill Wohl declined to provide additional details of the legal agreements between Oracle and HP, saying they are "steeped in confidentiality."

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to comment.

While a number of other vendors, including Microsoft and Red Hat, had already stopped developing for Itanium, Oracle's move nonetheless left some HP customers grappling with long-term decisions around their hardware platforms.

"This is a very interesting move on HP's part," said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "We're finally seeing another shoe drop."

There are some potential reasons for HP taking a couple months to reveal the existence of a legal agreement with Oracle, Olds said.

"I'd imagine that they'd want to get their ducks in a row on the legal side before taking this step," he said. "I would also think that HP has also probably tried to talk to Oracle privately about it before taking this step. But this signals a breakdown in negotiations and the start of the legal war," Olds said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com


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