Blogger’s Mirror Play Exposes Oracle’s Red Herrings…What to Do?

June 30, 2013

If tech strategy is your bag, a meeting with Dave Kellogg, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, should be on your professional bucket list.  Dave’s recent analysis of Oracle (Megavendors, Cloud Judo, and The Innovator’s Dilemma) is a deep (but readable) reveal of the plays that an aging giant is running to stay relevant.

I love it that Kellogg links his Kellblog readers to a list of rhetorical devices (think analogy, hyperbole, metaphor), the essence of what he calls “PR obfuscation.”  But there are stronger microscopes for examining the games and gamesmanship of Oracle, the Playmaker system being one.  Here, then, are some of the plays behind Kellogg’s commentary.


While Oracle is breathlessly promoting its prowess in so-called Cloud Computing, Kellogg reminds us that it was Oracle’s boasting CEO, Larry Ellison, who once called the cloud “complete gibberish.”  And proof that Oracle’s famous field sales force is out of Ellison’s orbit, he lists a short litany of cloud FUD facts that are being read to legacy customers (i.e., don’t trust off-premise providers).

Then there’s Big Red’s big new partnership with, the defacto pioneer of all things cloud as led by Marc Benioff, Ellison’s saddle bur and former employee.  It’s a customer announcement, Kellogg observes, not really a strategic deal for Oracle’s cloud business.  He has similar things to say about Oracle’s incongruous love-in with longtime arch rival Microsoft — more an insurance policy to stay relevant than to lead.

Kellogg’s play is a Mirror, the more genteel strategy for revealing through facts or evidence the certain hypocrisies of a targeted player.  And Oracle’s play seems in all likelihood, the Red Herring, the play of the hunted, where smelly decoys are thrown to throw off skeptics and sharpshooters.

Oracle, Salesforce or Microsoft might not care so much what names we give these plays, but they might want to know how Mirrors are broken and Red Herrings are concealed.  From the Pro Guidance content of our website and the Playcaller iOS app, here are a few tips for the field generals in Redwood Shores to consider:


  • If the Mirror is true, run a Disco to apologize for or explain your motivations.
  • If the Mirror is false and even slanderous, run your own Mirror to explain why it’s wrong and to put the competitor on notice.
  • Label your opponent as malicious or inaccurate.
  • Run a Recast to recharacterize the accusations of the Mirror.
  • If the Mirror is hard-hitting and is forcing a response, run a Deflect to buy time and hatch the best counter.
  • Run a Red Herring. Feign shock at your attacker’s methods.

The idea of plays was hatched when Larry Ellison himself declared, “The PC is a ridiculous device.”  So Ellison and Oracle know how to run plays.  But Red Herrings are inherently defensive and, as such, he telltale sign of what Kellogg is suggesting — the Oracle’s days of leadership are more fiction than fact.  And from the perspective of a playmaker, they are apparently more evasive than progressive.

Post by Alan Kelly

Photo credit: Host Analytics