The Washington Post

Oracle’s Ellison talks Steve Jobs, the NSA

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison speaks at the Oracle World Conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) (Paul Sakuma/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Oracle chief executive officer Larry Ellison gave a candid interview to CBS This Morning Tuesday, sharing his thoughts on Steve Jobs, the NSA surveillance program and a little bit about his company’s lawsuit with Google.

The often-outspoken executive told interviewer Charlie Rose that while Apple has a lot of talented people at the company — including chief executive Tim Cook — he thinks that it will be difficult for the firm to keep pace with the Jobs years. He predicted Apple will see a period similar to the years following Jobs’s ouster at Apple, from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s.

“We saw — we conducted the experiment,” said Ellison, who was a close friend of Jobs. Ellison said he’s not shorting Apple, but that he doesn’t see how Apple can be nearly as successful without him. He told Rose that he used to take regular walks with Jobs, until shortly before his death, and that he considered the tech mogul “our Edison. He was our Picasso.”

Rose also pressed the executive for his opinion on surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency. Ellison said he thinks that allowing some government data collection is “essential,” particularly to combat terrorist threats.

And the collection itself, he said, doesn't bother him because similar programs were already being run by credit card companies and other firms.

When asked what would cross the line for him, in terms of the way the data are used, Ellison said that he would be uncomfortable if political parties used this data to target supporters on “the other side of the aisle.”

In other words: yes, Larry Ellison seems to be more upbeat about NSA surveillance than he does about Apple.

Ellison also had some words for Google, following last year’s Oracle-Google court battle over patents covering the Java programming language, and how it is used in Google’s mobile Android operating system. A jury found last year that Google had not violated Oracle patents.

In his conversation with Rose, Ellison said that he “has trouble” with Google chief executive Larry Page, and blames him for the issue that led to the Oracle suit.

“I think he slipped up this one time,” Ellison said. “This really bothers me. I don’t see how he thinks you can just copy someone else’s stuff. It really — it really bothers me.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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