NEW YORK--Oracle CEO Larry Ellison today said with great confidence and fanfare that he sees his company's future squarely interwoven with the upcoming release of its Oracle8i application.
The "i" defines the database application's new Internet-centric commitment, and signals a wider shift of the computing paradigm away from PC-based or client-server-based computing, Ellison said.
"The Internet is the future. It is the future of Oracle, it is the future of computing," Ellison said during a keynote address at the Internet World convention here. "We are willing to bet the company on it."
During a demonstration of Oracle8i, however, the translucent iMac running it froze up and crashed. "But it's a great looking computer, a real great color," Ellison, one of Apple's board members, said coyly of the computer's public stumble.
"There is another computer here, but I hate to move from a Mac to a Windows PC," he added. The iMac eventually got back on track before Ellison was forced to defect.
Oracle8i is a move away from localized networks scattered across a company's wide-flung geographic locations, which often are difficult to maintain and back up. The application shifts the focus to a centralized server that can be administrated at a lower cost.
"Internet computing centralizes complexity while providing data on everyone's desktop," through any Web browser, Ellison said.
The Oracle chief added that Internet computing was not the rebirth of "network computing," which largely is considered obsolete. Rather, he said, it was simply a renaming of the concept.
"The dismal turnout for network computing was my mistake," Ellison said. "It was a huge marketing gaffe on my part for calling it [network computing]. Everyone though it was a proprietary system."
Ellison said also that, with the bull market apparently running out of steam and the bears clawing their way back onto Wall Street, Oracle may be poised to make a splash with Oracle8i.
"We have a feeling that we might be counter-cyclical," Ellison said. He believes, he said, that during economic downtimes, businesses cutting capital expenditures will be enticed by the lower costs of implementation and maintenance afforded by Oracle8i.
Adding to Oracle's advantage is the fact that Microsoft continues to believe in the distributed client-server model, which inherently is more expensive to implement, maintain, and upgrade because it is not centralized, he said.
Ellison added that, although the software giant has been able to sell its current database products for cheaper than Oracle's server-based applications, he sees a leveling of the playing field as more applications are written for the Web rather than for PCs.
"This is really about the Web vs. Windows, not Oracle vs. Windows," he said. "No one thinks Oracle can win against Microsoft, but people do think that the Web has a chance against Windows."
Ellison pointed out that IBM once enjoyed a monopoly when giant mainframes were the kings of the computing landscape. He said Microsoft currently enjoys that position in the PC market with its Windows software, but contended that that scenario is about to change, with a shift toward Internet computing.
"The shift is happening right now and it will be clear to everyone in about three years," he said. "A paradigm shift that we catch early would be very good for us."
Oracle8i is currently in beta and is likely to be released by the end of this year.