Tech Time Warp of the Week: A Look Back at Larry Ellison’s Most Outrageous Moments as a CEO

Oracle founder and all-around Silicon Valley legend Larry Ellison is stepping down as CEO of the world’s most frighteningly powerful database company after 37 years at the helm. And though this is largely ceremonial—he will no doubt continue to run Oracle for the rest of his life and from beyond the grave—it provides a good excuse to remember the man’s most colorful moments. If that’s the right term.

Ellison flies jets, races yachts, and collects samurai swords. He sics private detectives on the competition. He wants to live forever. The myths about the man are myriad, and though not all are true, there are plenty that are 100 percent Larry Ellison, a man willing to do whatever it takes to get whatever he wants.

If you’ve never seen him in action, take a look at the classic video above, just for a small taste. Shot at a meeting of Silicon Valley’s Churchill Club in 2009, it shows that wonderful moment when Larry unloaded on the entire cloud computing industry, an industry threatening to overturn his Oracle empire. He told the world that calling Google a cloud made no sense whatsoever. “What do you think Google runs on, water vapor?” he said. Then, not too long after that, Oracle started selling stuff that it called a cloud.

But that’s one of his tamer moments:

Hires Privates Eyes to Go Through Microsoft’s Garbage

When the Justice Department filed its massive antitrust suit against Microsoft in 1998, Ellison and company hired the private investigation firm Investigation Group International to dig up dirt on its rival, Oracle later admitted. The firm’s most famous move: paying janitors for access to garbage thrown out by Redmond’s allies, which actually turned up evidence against Bill Gates and company.

And Hires Some More

And then he did again. In 2010, Oracle paid private investors to track down Leo Apotheker, then the CEO of HP. Oracle had subpoenaed Apotheker, the former boss of SAP, as part of its $1.3 billion intellectual property lawsuit against its arch rival. But the move was more an act of petty revenge than anything else. Before hiring Apotheker, HP had booted Ellison tennis buddy Mark Hurd, following a sexual harassment and expense report scandal, and Ellison never forgave the company. In fact, he promptly hired Hurd, who is now co-CEO of Oracle.

Defends the NSA, But Calls Google ‘Absolutely Evil’

Last year, Ellison told CBS that the NSA’s massive surveillance program is “absolutely essential,” but that Google’s use of the Java virtual machine in the Android operating system was “absolutely evil.”

Oracle is locked in an outrageous legal battle with Google over Android, with Ellison and company claiming that Google pilfered Oracle intellectual property in cloning its Java programming language APIs—or application programming interfaces. If the courts rule in Oracle’s favor, it could end up destroying computer programming as we know it.

Cancels Benioff’s Keynote

No, Ellison has never shied away from taking the fight to competitors. But when Oracle canceled CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote at Oracle’s annual OpenWorld conference in 2011, it was a low blow even for the King of Oracle. Though Benioff has often criticized Oracle for selling “false cloud” products, has always been a major Oracle customer—and Oracle is an investor in the company. Benioff may have gotten the last laugh, though. He delivered his keynote to a packed crowd at a nearby restaurant instead, and probably got more publicity than he would have otherwise.

Tries to Cheat Death

Ellison’s ambitions in business are matched perhaps only by his ambitions in life. Yes, he wants to live forever. One of Ellison’s only known philanthropic causes is the Ellison Medical Foundation, a biomedical research organization dedicated to life extension. Cryogenic Larry will happen. Count on it.

And Just Plain Cheats

But first, he’ll cheat in other ways. Last year, his yachting team admitted to cheating in the run up to the America’s Cup, but then it went on to win the cup, with the Oracle CEO skipping out on his own Oracle World keynote speech in order to witness this inevitable triumph. That is Larry Ellison.

Friday Cephalopod: I was making mud pies! [Pharyngula]

Game|Life Podcast: Destiny, Hyrule Warriors, Smash Bros, Minecraft

Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors Nintendo

You know how sometimes on the Game|Life podcast we don’t really know what to talk about? No chance of that happening this week. Tune in to hear Bo Moore and me discuss Destiny, Hyrule Warriors, the Super Smash Bros. demo on Nintendo 3DS, and a bit about Microsoft buying Minecraft.

Game|Life’s podcast is posted on Fridays, is available on iTunes, can be downloaded directly and is embedded below.

Game|Life Audio Podcast


New Resident Evil Aims To Bring Back the Horror

CHIBA, Japan — Resident Evil games used to be scary.

It’s a familiar refrain among fans ever since the series, which gave birth to the name “survival horror,” has increasingly swung towards action in pursuit of a larger audience. When Resident Evil Revelations appeared on the 3DS in 2011, it was supposed to represent a return to the scares of zombies past.

This brings us to Resident Evil Revelations 2, due out in 2015 for consoles and Steam. WIRED was able to play a portion of Revelations 2 at the Tokyo Game Show, where Capcom reps assured me the game would mark a return to the series’ roots: less ammunition, less firepower, more horror.

Based on my brief experience with the demo, I concur with the last part.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 stars series veteran Claire Redfield and newcomer Moira Burton, two women who wake up in a filthy prison. An unseen person allows them to escape their cells and lets them explore the facility, but they are not alone: Mutilated humanoids called “Afflicted” also roam the halls, many of them having been impaled with iron bars and pointed sticks. This does nothing to enhance their combat prowess, but it certainly makes them look terrifying.

Claire and Moira are distinct characters, in part because they use different tools. Claire handles all the guns and uses a knife for quick, close combat. Moira “doesn’t do firearms,” but she has no objection to swinging a mean crowbar. She also holds a flashlight, which is helpful when searching for items.

Moira’s also a bit of a potty-mouth, dropping a four-letter word within moments of meeting Claire. I’m curious to see how this plays out: On one hand, too much profanity can highlight lazy writing. On the other, when she and I made the exact same PG-13 exclamation after a scary moment, I was more inclined to like her.

Early Resident Evil games demanded exploration of a large space that never felt safe.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 will support cooperative play, but a single player can swap between Claire and Moira at will. Claire is the “leader;” if she is killed, the game ends. Moira can be incapacitated, requiring Claire’s help to proceed, but she cannot die. This is an important quality in A.I. partners, lest they get killed and end the game abruptly.

Where Resident Evil Revelations 2 falls short of its promises, at least at this early stage, is the notion that this is at all reminiscent of the classic Resident Evil games.

The early games in this series demanded exploration of a large space that never felt safe. Killing enemies was a choice, and players ran the risk of being overwhelmed if they were not careful. Revelations 2‘s demo is strictly linear, and enemy encounters are kill-or-be-killed—no sneaking. I did feel tense, but that was because the environments were creepy and sculpted to put me at unease, not because I was in danger of running out of bullets. And certainly not when I could slash an Afflicted on the ground to keep him from standing up.

After the disappointing Resident Evil 6, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far of Resident Evil Revelations 2. The characters move well, fight well, and there are plenty of scares to be found. I just hope the full game, which will be released as episodic downloads as well as a complete disc-based edition, puts Claire and Moira into a big, open environment to explore at their peril. That’s the Resident Evil I want to make a comeback.