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Oracle moves beyond databases

Kicking off the its International Alliance Conference in San Francisco, Oracle president of worldwide operations Ray Lane outlined the company's plan to help build what he called a "networked society."

Kicking off the Oracle International Alliance Conference in San Francisco, Oracle (ORCL) president of worldwide operations Ray Lane outlined the company's plan to help build what he called a "networked society."

Lane assured the audience of channel resellers and third-party developers that Oracle would not abandon its "core competency" of database technology. But he also painted a picture of a company ready to come out from behind the scenes and become a high-profile leader. Oracle sees its chance in the push to popularize slimmed-down, low-cost computers that are constantly connected to a network.

"A lot of partners would love to see us be just a database company," Lane said. "But the strategic intent is a much different direction than that."

The company is in the midst of critical transformation, the first part of which is moving from being an aggressive database provider to a customer-friendly strategic partner, Lane added. Acknowledging that Oracle has previously been criticized for being indifferent to customers' strategic needs, he repeatedly emphasized the need to build partnerships with ISVs, resellers, and customers in what he called "management networking."

Oracle will also make a major move to broaden its markets at both ends of the enterprise. At the high end it wants to build mission-critical applications; at the low end, Microsoft Windows NT will become a "core development platform," Lane said. Oracle will also begin a high-profile campaign to evangelize the NC, starting with a television ad campaign in the next six months.

Like his counterparts at Sun Microsystems and other network-centric companies, Lane espoused an information-rich vision of the networked society in which everything from corporations to classrooms will be wired. Oracle's business objective, Lane said, is to provide the essential choice for tools for building such a society.

Lane also acknowledged that widespread adoption of the NC will be driven by corporations, and he pitched a vision of network computing where networked terminals throughout an enterprise would require far less maintenance and upgrades than today's desktop PCs.

"Information technology has been in that [position] for some time now where safe decisions prevail over innovative decisions," Lane declared.