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Ellison's 15-minute NC recipe

The Oracle CEO will finally show real network computer hardware and software next month in Japan.

TYSONS CORNER, Virginia--The world of network computers is only 15 minutes away.

That's what Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison will demonstrate next month at an event in Japan.

Ellison will show two hardware configurations of the network computer based on chips from both Intel and Digital Equipment linked to two software servers based on the Network Computer Architecture.

The April 15 unveiling will feature the high-flying CEO configuring an NC network complete with NC hardware, PC-based servers, Oracle server software based on NCA, smart cards, and Ethernet connections in approximately 15 minutes.

Ellison said his company's NC scheme will include a Video User Interface that will initially take users through the capabilities of their NC so that it is clear to the user how they can implement the device's easy configuration and applications, such as electronic mail and personal productivity tools.

"The really hard part of the job [in building an NC network] will be getting the tape off the cardboard boxes," said Ellison, who spoke at the Networked Economy Conference here via interactive satellite.

At Oracle's OpenWorld user conference in November, Ellison demonstrated NC platforms based on 133-MHz Intel processors. In Japan, Ellison will show off a 200-MHz Pentium Pro-based machine and a 230-MHz NC based on Digital StrongARM processors. The Oracle CEO characterized the use of the processors as evidence that NCs will be based on industry standards.

"We're not fighting the PC hardware industry, we're embracing it," said Ellison.

The machines are expected to hit the market by the end of the first quarter, although Oracle hasn't identified who exactly will manufacture them.

Oracle hopes to sell NC-based networks into educational environments, so the video-based tool could help dispel misgivings concerning the emerging platform.

Ellison also went out on a limb and predicted that NC's will outsell PCs by the year 2000 and the market for the devices top out at 90 percent market share, leaving 10 percent for PCs.

The stripped-down devices will have lots of competition, including Sun Microsystems' JavaStations and IBM's NC implementation.

Intel and Microsoft, however, are making strides in defining the NetPC, an initiative to define a simplified business PC that the companies hope will keep the NC at bay.