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Data Sheet—Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The streets of San Francisco are snarled this week, thanks to an annual software developers conference hosted by Oracle. The topic of the moment is the “cloud,” a network of virtual software services that don’t require big-business IT shops to own their own computers and programs. Fortune’s Barb Darrow reported on Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd’s prediction that 80% of nuts-and-bolts software applications would run in the cloud in a decade, compared with 25% today.

Technology insiders pay attention to behemoths like Oracle because of their size and breadth. But they also know that established players are newer to the cloud and that their businesses are growing more slowly as a result. A chief Oracle competitor, Workday, is gunning for two areas that Oracle dominates, applications that run human resources and financial departments. Unlike Oracle, Workday started as a cloud-based software provider. Begun by the founders of HR software maker PeopleSoft, who sold their company under duress to Oracle, Workday is just a decade old. It’s a bit player compared to Oracle, with anticipated revenue of $1.5 billion this year versus its rival’s $38 billion.

Already, though, Workday has made major inroads. It has signed up 1,062 big companies to run its HR cloud system out of a target universe of about 25,000, says CEO Aneel Bhusri, who founded the company with David Duffield, the former PeopleSoft CEO. Workday has 160 customers for its financial-software product, Bhusri says. “We’ve been at this eight years, and it’s a tougher nut to crack than HR,” he says. “It took PeopleSoft 10 years to build financials into a dominant product.”

Cloud software is attractive to customers because it costs less over time. Companies like Workday can push updates over the Internet, removing the need for costly maintenance contracts.

This is why mites like Workday cause so much grief for Oracle and fellow giants IBM and SAP. If Workday can get big customers to shift to its system, they are unlikely to leave. Says Bhusri, “people change their HR and finance programs every 15 years or so.” Now, if only cloud companies could do something about this damn traffic.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

BITS AND BYTES

U.S. and EU reach tentative agreement over sharing data. Negotiators are scrambling to define new policies for how American businesses must protect information about European citizens. The framework could impact the business models of large Internet companies such as Facebook and Google. A suggested pact includes an oversight role for the U.S. Department of Commerce. (New York Times)

Mobile advertising sales re-energize Alibaba. Second-quarter revenue rose sharply for the Chinese e-commerce giant, reaching approximately $3.5 billion. That’s in sharp contrast with the first half of 2015, when it missed projections for both quarters. The amount of money it generated from mobile ads tripled to $1.7 billion. (Fortune)

Walmart requests permission to expand drone experiments. The retailer already uses unmanned aerial vehicles for inventory management and other applications in its distribution warehouses. The next phase of its tests will involve home grocery deliveries, which Walmart intends to expand to 43 states next year. (Fortune)

JPMorgan Chase readies mobile payments service. The largest U.S. bank is the latest financial services company challenging Apple Pay, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. The biggest thing Chase will have going for it at launch: contracts to handle transactions for mammoth retailers Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy. (Reuters)

Square’s revenue growth accelerates in third quarter, but so do its losses. The mobile payments company lost almost $131.5 million during the first nine months of 2015. That was 12.4% more than the year-earlier period. The revelation was part of new financials released to investors as the company prepares its initial public offering, likely in November. Incidentally, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla resigned as a Square director. That’s not unusual: Khosla, whose firm is a major Square shareholder, prefers not to serve on public company boards. (Fortune, Reuters)

Intel pays undisclosed sum to buy artificial intelligence startup. The company, Saffron AI, is working on software that mimics human reasoning. The technology enables natural language processing, which could be useful for business analytics applications that center on very industry-specific data. (Fortune)

Microsoft may appoint new leader for Office applications business. Re/code reports that Julie Larson-Green, a 20-year company veteran who currently leads “customer experience” for the software giant’s services division, will replace the group’s corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer. Office is undergoing a significant reboot, as Microsoft seeks more marketshare in mobile apps and cloud services. (Re/code)

THE DOWNLOAD

Why DuPont hires linguists

It’s tough enough to keep a marketing message consistent in just one language. Imagine trying to do so across more than 1,200 distinct websites and mobile applications.

That’s roughly the number of digital properties that Fortune 500 chemicals company DuPont was struggling to update prior to streamlining its Internet presence to a more manageable 52 sites, a process it started about two years ago.

Its original intentions were sound: prioritize the needs of the local culture, regardless of where potential DuPont customers happen to be. After all, cultural sensitivity is an absolute must when establishing a global digital presence. So DuPont encouraged in-country teams to prioritize as they saw fit to appeal to the local market. “There are language nuances that you can’t ignore, image considerations that you can’t ignore,” said Sandra Van Wormer, digital marketing director at DuPont.

The resulting tangle of different sites created to accommodate those considerations, however, made rolling out global marketing campaigns incredibly challenging, Van Wormer said.

The solution? Adopt a new system that centralizes the process of updating and distributing content, and that optimizes how pages, videos, white papers and other messages are displayed to site visitors. The company now bakes language translation into the process, so marketing managers can concentrate mostly on minor customizations rather than hiring linguists themselves. This approach cuts the amount of time it takes to roll out multinational campaign in half on average, according to the company. You can learn about additional benefits here.

 

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ONE MORE THING

History-making computer chip from first manned space mission heads to auction. The module, bigger than most modern-day smartphones, comes from the 59-pound IBM computer used by Gus Grissom and John Young for Gemini 3. Early bids exceed $1,200. (Fortune)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy:

@greentechlady
heather@heatherclancy.com