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Oracle retools software line for Web business

The company revamps its family of database and e-commerce software products to make it simpler for companies to take their businesses to the Web.

    Oracle today revamped its family of database and e-commerce software products to make it simpler for companies to take their businesses to the Web.

    Oracle condensed its software line by integrating its technology into three main products: database software, which collects and stores corporate information; an application server to run e-commerce transactions; and a suite of software development tools.


    Gartner analyst Yefim Natis says the new Oracle Internet Application Server is a brand new middleware product that is quietly replacing its failed predecessor, the fourth version of Oracle Application Server, which had many technical problems.

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    The giant database software maker also announced a three-year partnership with Compaq Computer, which will sell Oracle software with its high-end computing systems.

    Oracle executives today said the company's simplified product line, with some added new features such as Web caching, will give businesses all the software they need to build e-commerce Web sites. The company, which cut its number of software products by half, competes against IBM, Microsoft, Sun-Netscape Alliance, BEA Systems and others in the exploding market for e-commerce software and tools.

    Oracle executives chided Microsoft's recently announced software strategy, called Microsoft.Net, which Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison today dubbed "Microsoft Not Yet."

    Microsoft chairman Bill Gates last week said the company will spend the next two years driving the Windows operating system more fully onto the Net in hopes of making the software giant a major player in providing Web-based software and services.

    "We don't think today's marketplace can wait for technology for the Internet for two more years. We think they need the technology today," said Oracle executive vice president Gary Bloom. "The new economy is not waiting."

    Still, Microsoft is also building new features into its Windows operating system, including handwriting and speech recognition--technology Oracle is developing.

    Oracle is releasing a new version of its Internet-focused Oracle 8i database software, which will include more security and support for new Java software for businesses and XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for data exchange.

    Oracle is also releasing a new application server, software that runs Web transactions and serves as a traffic cop between a Web browser and back-end database. The application server will offer caching features that speed the delivery of Web content to an Internet surfer.

    Caching software replicates Web site information stored in databases and helps deliver information to Web surfers faster because sites don't have to retrieve database information each time a request comes in.

    One-stop shop
    Oracle is also bundling its software development tools into a suite, so customers can buy them all at once rather than as single items. As a result, the price for the tools will drop from about $14,000 to $5,000.

    The suite will feature Oracle Portal, new software for building Web portal sites that allow a business to connect employees with partners and suppliers. The software will allow businesses to deliver Web services, such as weather information and stock quotes, on their Web sites.

    The suite also includes two low-end data analysis tools, Oracle Designer and Oracle Reports, which allow businesses to generate and view simple reports on corporate data, such as quarterly sales figures by region or date. The suite will also include the company's JDeveloper Java development tool and Oracle Forms, templates that help programmers build software.

    Oracle's new application server will support both data analysis and the Web portal software, allowing companies to personalize their Web sites to customer preferences.

    Oracle said all of its revamped family of products will be available within the next few weeks. By the first half of next year, the company's database will include two higher-end analysis tools, allowing companies to examine business information, seek out patterns and trends, and predict the future.

    As reported earlier, Oracle will build into the database its Darwin software, technology that performs "data mining" capabilities, in which complex reports are generated by examining business information and seeking patterns and trends, such as online buyers' preferences. Oracle is also incorporating Oracle Express, software that can make forecasts and predictions for the future.

    Today is not the first time Oracle has combined its technology to simplify its offerings. The company previously combined its enterprise applications into a single product called E-Business Suite. The suite features accounting, human resources and customer service software.