Used to be, when Oracle put on a show, the results were legendary. Sure, they've always sold mind-numbingly boring (but, to be fair, very profitable) database software, but didn't spare any expense to make customers from all over the world feel good to be there.
Now, to bastardize the good words of Gertrude Stein, there is no "there," there.
I got a chance to see Oracle's latest worldwide sales meeting in action, as it was happening. And it was entirely virtual. Completely created on computer by ON24, a San Francisco company that designs and puts on virtual events for companies that want to cut costs, but still have to reach out to employees and customers. With impressive detail, including a super-realistic mock-up of Oracle's Redwood Shores headquarters seen out of the virtual windows, anyone invited could log on, chat, and take a tour of the entire made-up show floor. Without having to get on a plane, get in a cab, or leave their laptop.
ON24 is an example of one of the few companies perfectly placed to take advantage of our long recession. The more companies need to save money, the more they turn to virtual reality. If you're Oracle (or dozens of other ON24 clients), you still have to reach out to do business, but desperately want to do so without busting your (rapidly shrinking) budget. Going virtual costs about 1/10th as much as a big event, and that doesn't even count the cost to fly and rent hotels by attendees.
Company CEO Sharat Sharan told me that business hasn't been this good since (you guessed it) the dot-com bust. The company has plans to grow by about 40 people in the near future, with most of the jobs coming to its San Francisco headquarters. It's what happens when strange business conditions meet a company uniquely positioned to deal with those conditions. Throw in designers who can create, to the pixel, a conference atmosphere good enough to fool the most frequent conference attendee, and you have a company in high demand.
It's like re-animator .. but this way, the patient actually works better.