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Oracle conference to highlight Net push

At a customer conference this week, the company plans to unveil its suite of financial and human resources applications designed for the Internet.

Oracle is expected to put its money where its mouth is this week by trotting out business customers who are using the software maker's latest suite of Internet-enabled applications.

At its Oracle Applications User Group conference, which kicks off today in Orlando, Florida, Oracle plans to unveil 11i, its suite of financial and human resources applications revamped for use on the Internet. The software is slated for general availability during the first quarter of next year and will ship to a limited number of customers in November.

Oracle is also expected to debut the next generation of its customer relationship management (CRM) software, which will be generally available next May. The software is included in its 11i suite of applications and is intended to automate businesses sales, customer service, and marketing needs.

With its Internet push, Oracle has rewritten its database and application code to run completely on the Web. That means it will be compatible with any standard computing platform.

Oracle expects about 10,000 people at its show, which will include an address by keynote speaker Colin Powell.

Oracle is racing against SAP, PeopleSoft, and others to ship a full suite of Internet-enabled applications to customers that want to buy, sell, and track sales leads online.

Yankee Group analyst Lisa Williams said Oracle has an ambitious release schedule for its 11i software but questioned whether any enterprise resource planning (ERP) software maker has a large lead in this race.

"It's an open question," she said. "I think people's assumptions about who 'gets' the Internet is largely unsupported. I haven't seen the proof yet. I've seen [Internet] enablement out of everybody, and I don't think anyone can claim the high ground yet."

At its own customer conference this month, SAP elaborated on its Internet strategy, hinged on includes a customizable portal for corporate clients and an online marketplace that businesses will use to buy and sell with other companies.

Oracle first announced 11i in April at a company conference in San Diego. As reported, 11i includes a new interface that is similar to what SAP and PeopleSoft are moving toward so their software will appeal to more customers.

Customers will use the portal to do day-to-day business tasks online. For example, a new Internet accounts-receivable component Oracle is offering will allos access to information on collections, payments, and billing disputes online.

Oracle president Ray Lane was scheduled to open the conference, and chief executive Larry Ellison is scheduled to speak Tuesday.