The Upshot is an occasional feature designed to bring readers the wit and wisdom of's beat reporters. It's a section where writers will offer brief analytical insights on the companies they follow every day.

It seemed a vivid sign of how quickly perception changes in Silicon Valley when the talk at a recent


(ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report

event centered, for a few minutes, more on the credibility of


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than on the host's products.

Just last summer, Ariba was the undisputed, infallible leader of the business-to-business stock sector.

The fourth quarter changed all that. Slower growth, coupled with an accounting change, made Wall Street wonder just how hot Ariba's business actually is.

An apparent contradiction from Ariba management didn't help. On its quarterly conference call, company execs initially said they hadn't seen a slowdown in demand, but later said first-quarter sales growth would be only 6% sequentially. Compare that with 26% sequential growth during the fourth quarter, or 68% growth the quarter before that, and the two statements don't seem to jibe (though, seemingly, one may be bordering on jive).

At the Oracle event, analysts were openly questioning those results, a big change from the way Ariba was being treated just last quarter.

If doubt about Ariba keeps cropping up in casual conversations around Silicon Valley, it could be a signal that the honeymoon is over between this erstwhile highflier and its benefactors in the investment banking community. The fallout will land squarely on the company's shareholders if times get tough and Ariba doesn't get its usual support from its pinstriped fans on Wall Street.