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Could Oracle’s better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings be a harbinger of better days for the technology industry? Most solution providers will go only so far as expressing cautious (very) optimism, but nonetheless some good news – albeit slight – is always welcome.

Oracle reported lower profits and sales, but beat analyst expectations for the quarter ended May 31. The company earned $1.9 billion, or 38 cents a share, versus $2 billion, or 39 cents, from a year earlier. Revenue dropped 5 percent to $6.9 billion, compared with $7.2 billion a year ago. Analysts had been predicting revenue of only $6.47 billion so that’s where the good news comes in.

On another note, Oracle officials pointed out the impact that lowered foreign currency rates versus the U.S. dollar had on their results. Without this impact, they said fourth-quarter earnings per share would have been up 9 percent to 42 cents per share.The currency discrepancy is affecting public companies’ earnings numbers throughout the United States, but from Oracle’s perspective executives remained upbeat.

“We executed substantially better than we expected on both the top and bottom line for the quarter,” said Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein.

Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison singled out the company’s Exadata Database Machine, released into the market in last year to compete with high-end storage arrays such as those from Teradata, as a major bright spot driving growth in the company’s portfolio. The company is also getting set to launch its Fusion Middleware 11g software on July 11.

From a channel perspective, Oracle is continuing its push into the SMB space with its business applications, competing against SAP at both the high- and low-end. But Oracle remains an open-question for many solution providers, who are wary of channel conflict and are not able to take the lead on enterprise deals. During the earnings call, Oracle executives noted several such enterprise deals signed during the quarter, including ones with Wal-Mart, American Express and Vodafone.

“In Europe our applications business grew 5 percent in constant currency versus negative 27 percent growth for SAP in their most recent quarter,” said Oracle President Charles Phillips. “Historically Europe has been an SAP stronghold, but these results prove that we can compete and beat them everywhere.”

One unknown: Oracle’s $7.4 billion acquisition of computer and software maker Sun Microsystems, which closes this summer. The jury is still out on how well the integration with Oracle will go, whether the company’s two channels will be blended and which of Sun’s products – storage, servers, software – will be kept in the lineup.