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Ellison touts Oracle's Web-based technology

The company next week will unveil its technology for letting small networking devices access applications via the Web, chief executive Larry Ellison tells the Internet World trade show.

NEW YORK--Oracle next week will unveil its technology for letting small networking devices access applications via the Web, chief executive Larry Ellison told attendees at the Internet World trade show here today.

Ellison, who devoted his keynote speech to the merits of Internet-based computing, said Oracle will release a technology called "Portal-to-Go," first introduced as "Project Panama" in March. Ellison said Portal-to-Go will let users access Web-based applications through the Palm VII handheld computing device and through cell phones.

With Portal-to-Go, the database giant plans to let users access more service and commerce applications via the Web rather than rely on desktop applications that traditionally have benefited archrival Microsoft and its Windows platform.

Ellison said he expects the Net-connected cell phone market to mushroom in the next few years and predicted that European Net use will vault past that of the United States thanks to the heavy penetration of cell phones there.

The "portal" in "Portal-to-Go" refers to the personalized portal services Oracle will offer users. The product also is expected to let business users access enterprise applications through their corporate intranets, Oracle said in March.

Oracle declined to elaborate on Ellison's remarks after the keynote or to confirm that "Portal-to-Go" will launch next week.

In March, Oracle said "Project Panama" would be marketed to wireless network operators, such as Cellular One and AT&T; e-commerce and other Web content sites; and Internet service providers.

Oracle is not alone in providing software tools for Web applications. IBM today introduced a preliminary technology called Sash that helps developers create Web applications that can be used in conjunction with the PC desktop. IBM said the technology is meant to help corporations distribute applications to their employees via a Web browser while keeping the desktop systems they already have in place.

The Sash prototype, available for Windows computers, is available for download.

Ellison returned to one of his longstanding themes, criticizing the model of computing in which applications or whole databases are stored on local computers rather than on centralized computers that feed information to inexpensive, less powerful machines.

Ellison cited his own company's human resources department as an example of the problem.

"It so happens that Oracle has different HR databases in every country where we do business," Ellison said. "Say I want to ask a really complicated question: How many employees work at Oracle? I don't know."

Rather than have separate databases at each of Oracle's 70 national headquarters around the world, Ellison said the company was acting to consolidate the information into one database and would consolidate its 40 data centers into two, the second for backup purposes.

In addition to the information that consolidation provides--for example, being able to tell at a glance how many people a company employs--Ellison cited the cost of maintaining, managing, and backing separate databases.

"I'm paying top dollar to not know what's going on," Ellison quipped.