Oracle nips off to boat races as iPhone rings up profit

One took to the high seas and the other to Twitter, but Larry Ellison and Tim Cook both kept schtum

What would you do? On one hand, you have 60,000 people at a conference, plus hundreds of thousands online, waiting for you to appear and speak to them. On the other hand, you have 11 guys sitting out on the water in a boat that has been swallowing millions of your personal savings.

If you're Larry Ellison, you go with the guys in the boat.

That's what happened here on Tuesday, when Team USA in the America's Cup sailing race – fielded by Oracle – won the first of two of the final cup races being held on San Francisco Bay. The second race would have coincided with Ellison's second scheduled keynote speech at Oracle OpenWorld, the company's
annual conference, held this week in San Francisco.

Ellison failed to show. Instead, Oracle's executive vice-president, Thomas Kurian, stepped on stage to give Ellison's presentation, after having given his own keynote that morning.

Sea legs
Larry was out on a boat watching the race, Kurian told the audience, which no doubt will have insulted some customers and conference goers, but most will probably understand the Oracle chief's decision.

Each race for the past week and a half has been a nailbiting make-or-break for Oracle. The cup goes to the first team that takes nine points, with one point given per race won. New Zealand had eight points at the start of the previous week. The general consensus was that Oracle would concede the cup – in its possession after winning the last competition – within days.

But Team USA has eked out win after win. It took the second race on Tuesday as well, bringing the cup to an extraordinary final head-to-head race with the teams tied 8-8. And yes, the fairytale ending was written by Ellison’s team when they won the deciding race of the regatta last night.

It has been an exciting America's Cup that is now officially, the longest in the race's 162-year history, thanks to many days where only one race could take place. This was generally due to wind speeds being too high, the currents too fitful, or the window for races – determined by both US network broadcast times and US Coast Guard shipping restrictions – closing before a second race could occur.

It’s gone on so long the bars down at the official bayfront racing village had their liquor licences expire, forcing them to apply for extensions for the thirsty crowd.

The races really should have been over by the time OpenWorld began. Instead they have provided an ongoing background buzz that will have pleased conference organisers – even if their main keynoter was a no-show on Tuesday.

It has been a good week for Apple, too. A company many think has always been that little bit annoyingly smug was surely feeling even more so after it sold nine million new iPhones in just three days. Analysts had predicted six million. The last iPhone sold about five million at launch.

Even sweeter is the fact that critics had jumped on the company for pricing the iPhone 5c, its new entry-level model, too high when it was first announced.

All weekend long, queues wound around the new Apple Store in Stanford Shopping Centre, with determined buyers enduring a downpour on Saturday.

Even by Tuesday morning, 50 or so people were already sitting at 8am outside the San Francisco Apple Store. Attendees at OpenWorld heading to the Moscone Centre had to dodge phone devotees.

Strong Apple
Demand is so strong that Apple issued an unusual earnings forecast update, in the middle of a quarter – on Monday – predicting revenue would be better than initially thought, at the high end of its previous forecast of $34-$37 billion. Shares rose following that announcement.

And just as Twitter was chirping away about the new iPhone and the new iOS7 operating system for the phones, Apple chief executive Tim Cook joined the social media site on Friday, the same day the 5C went on sale.

That late arrival to the twitterati caused much discussion, including speculation as to whether the initially unverified account was the Tim Cook. But indeed it was.

Not that he’s proven to be a chatterbox. After five days, @tim_cook had made all of two tweets, and one retweet – a comment from Irish-American talk show host Conan O’Brien. It seems the Apple boss won’t be any more forthcoming than the famously secretive company.