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Oracle offers technology-to-go

The database software giant announces Portal-to-Go, a set of technologies aimed at allowing telecom companies to provide Internet content and transactions to wireless customers.

Oracle is branching out with technology-to-go.

As expected, the database software giant today announced Portal-to-Go, a set of technologies aimed at allowing telecommunications companies to provide Internet content and transactions to wireless customers, primarily via Web-enabled cell phones.

Oracle sees Portal-to-Go appealing to a variety of wireless providers staking out plans to deliver real-time data to mobile users, particularly for e-commerce applications.

"With Portal-To-Go, we think we're providing great technology to help your wireless telephone access the Internet," said Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison. "Everything will have access to the Internet. Your car, when you run into horrible traffic, you'll press a button to give you new driving instructions. If you're listening to a great piece of music, you press a button tell you what you're listening to?. You'll be attached wherever you are, whenever you want to be."

With Portal-to-Go, the company plans to let users access service and commerce applications via mobile phones rather than through desktop applications that traditionally have benefited archrival Microsoft and its Windows operating system. Windows runs on more than 90 percent of the world's PCs, according to analysts.

Oracle reasons that with an estimated 300 million wireless phones in the world, or more than three times the number of Internet-enabled PCs, wireless carriers will be able to target a market three times larger than the current Internet-enabled audience.

Oracle announced Portal-to-Go as Project Panama in March.

At a telecommunications conference in Geneva today, Oracle demonstrated mobile services built on Oracle Portal-to-Go including e-travel, real-time auctions, stock trading, banking, messaging, and contact management, the company said.

Denise Lahey, vice president of Oracle's division for mobile and embedded technology, said U.S. telecommunications carriers are beta testing Oracle's Portal-To-Go technology and that services could roll out later this year or early next year.

Lahey said the company's technology does not compete directly against 3Com's wireless service, called Palm.Net, which allows Palm VII users to access Web information. A service, such as Palm.Net, could use Oracle's Portal-To-Go software, to offer Internet access to its customers, she said. In fact, OpenSky, a joint venture between 3Com and Aether Technologies, is testing Oracle's new software, she said. OpenSky plans to offer wireless Net service to Palm III and Palm V users by the first quarter of next year.

In addition, Oracle announced that it is working with Sun Microsystems, Motorola, and wireless communications software company Phone.com to jointly develop wireless technology. Oracle said several European telecommunications firms, including Cegetel, E-Plus, Libertel, and Telia, are testing mobile services delivered via Portal-to-Go.

Oracle and Sun demonstrated the use of a mobile phone enabled with Portal-to-Go to control devices using Sun's Jini technology, such as VCRs, printers, lights, and coffee machines. Jini is a Java-based technology developed by Sun to enable almost any device to connect to computer networks to share information.

Sun is also courting the cell phone market with Java and Jini technologies as a way to deliver information to users on the go.

Motorola is demonstrating wireless services using Portal-to-Go on two of its mobile phones.

Oracle and Phone.com will jointly market mobile services to communications providers. Phone.com develops wireless technology, including Web browser software for small devices, using a protocol called Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP.

During a question and answer session with the media, Ellison predicted that despite the failure of the original network computer vision?the concept he is credited with popularizing?NCs will become more pervasive than PCs in the near future.

Ellison originally envisioned the NC as a simplified PC-like device, with keyboard, display screen, and mouse, connected to the Internet. Several years ago, Ellison predicted that NCs selling in the $500 price range would make then-pricier PCs obsolete. While some large companies adopted NC-like devices as replacements for older terminal systems, the NC concept never caught on with consumers. When PC prices began to plummet last year, the NC was given up for dead by analysts and observers.

Now, the outspoken chief executive has broadened his definition of NCs to include wildly popular personal digital assistants, such as the PalmPilot, and Internet-capable phones. With that bit of revisionist history, the NC lives on.

"In year 2000, network appliances, Internet appliances, information appliances, NCs--whatever you call them--will outsell personal computers," Ellison said.

News.com's Wylie Wong contributed to this story.