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Oracle pitches speedy software setup

The database software giant is set to unveil new software and services to help companies get up and running on a purchasing system within 30 days.

    Oracle will unveil next Monday a new bundle of software and services intended to help companies get up and running on a complete purchasing system within 30 days.

    The package from the database software giant focuses on automating and handling a wide range of purchasing activities such as electronic banking, invoicing and receiving payments for orders that have already been placed.

    Oracle is touting its new offering at a time when the market for purchasing software, though poised for explosive growth, has been at somewhat of a standstill. Because of a sour economy, most businesses are putting technology spending on hold or trimming budgets to save money.

    Many of those that sell the software, including Oracle rivals Ariba, Commerce One and i2 Technologies, have been experiencing sluggish sales of software as the technology slowdown lingers.

    Ariba, for one, has had a particularly tough time. The former highflier matched expectations for its second quarter only after drastically cutting its outlook. The company, which named a new CEO in April, has said it does not expect to turn a profit anytime in the near future.

    Oracle, too, has seen brighter days. As the company closes in on the end of its fourth quarter, some Wall Street analysts are predicting weakness stemming from lackluster software revenue.

    Gartner analyst Brian Zrimsek said that Oracle, like many software makers, is finding a way to make its applications faster and easier to install, but he questions whether all businesses will benefit from a "30-day" software implementation.

    "We've heard in the past, 'We can implement financials (software) in 30 days,' and some (companies) can do that," Zrimsek said. "Often software vendors claim record speed for implementation, and it can be done, but whether or not a business can internalize it and make use of all the processes" is another story, he said.

    Most companies can't just take a quick approach to software because they need to include steps that are specific to their own internal business processes. Companies have, for instance, various approval routings for purchase requests, which need to be written into the software to automate that a function, Zrimsek said.

    But Jeremy Burton, Oracle's senior vice president in charge of global marketing for products and services, contends that the purchase-to-payment process is a familiar one that typically doesn't vary between different companies, so it requires little or no customization.

    The competitive landscape
    Burton also downplayed competition from the likes of Ariba, saying Oracle is primarily concerned with SAP and Commerce One. "We view Ariba as a (software) feature that became a company, because they aren't able to offer companies a complete solution," he said.

    Ariba could be an attractive takeover target for software vendors such as Siebel Systems or PeopleSoft, which could add its software to a mix of applications, Burton said.

    "The way the market is shaping up, SAP is always going to be a competitor," he added. "They were slow to the market...but now they're somewhat in bed with Commerce One."

    Last June, SAP formed ties with Commerce One in an effort to broaden its reach in the business-to-business segment.

    Companies can access Oracle's new offering, which is slated to be available later this month as an online service via Oracle.com. The company is hosting the applications for its customers. Pricing starts at $235,000, which includes license fees, hosting fees, education and consulting services.

    "One day, maybe not today, all software is going to become an online service," Burton said. Our applications will be "exclusively available online with rapid implementation and rapid payback" to our customers, he added.

    The new purchasing bundle marks the second in a series of offerings that Oracle is introducing in an appeal to businesses that need to install a system quickly. In April, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company unveiled a similar package that helps companies manage and automate their customer relationships, including marketing efforts, sales and customer service.

    Available to companies of all sizes, the new package includes pre-negotiated prices on indirect goods and services from suppliers--anything from paper supplies to office equipment.