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Oracle to beef up sales via Web

Oracle continues its Internet push by announcing a plan to move to a Web-based, build-to-order software sales strategy within the next year.

Oracle continued its Internet push today by announcing a plan to move to a Web-based, build-to-order software sales model within the next year.

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison said the database software company will build each software sale to order and deliver it via the Web. The move will save the company $500 million dollars in distribution and sales costs, Ellison said, allowing Oracle to plow more money into research and development and into supporting more complicated sales.

Oracle has for several years offered trial versions of its software for download from its Web site.

While corporate databases built with software from Oracle can grow to many terabytes in size as corporate data is entered, the actual Oracle database program itself is small enough to be downloaded via fast Internet connections used in most large companies.

Oracle's Web site lists the latest download version of its Windows NT-based 8i server at 390 megabytes in size. Versions for other operating systems range from 168MB to 462MB in size.

"The only way to order software [will be] from our Web site," said Ellison, adding that "we will still have a sales force focused on selling."

Oracle's sales force is now involved in more intricate deals. The company wants to move the more routine contract work to the Web, where customers can pick and download products. The company will also make all documentation available via its Web site.

Addressing reporters at Oracle's iDevelop 99 conference in Burlingame, California, Ellison also said the company plans to step-up its sales efforts in the set-top box area.

In response to a question on the recent Microsoft-AT&T alliance, Ellison said that Oracle soon plans to make a series of announcements regarding set-top boxes. "We think we have an excellent chance to get AT&T to use our technology as well."

Ellison also said the company has begun offering a new pricing model for Internet-based companies. Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the company began offering MIPS-based pricing two weeks ago.

As previously reported, the new pricing model--based on processor power, or Millions of Instructions Per Second (MIPS)--is a better way to gauge usage and will help Oracle attract more Internet-based customers, analysts say.

The option does not cost more for Internet companies, and in the long run may save them money, Jarvis said.

"The bigger the machine you use to run Oracle the more you pay," said Ellison, in explaining the new plan.

Several e-commerce firms, including eBay, have tested out the new licensing model and feel that it's fair, he said. "The goal was to give the 'dot com' companies a firm price," said Jarvis.