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Oracle's building power tools

Oracle lays out its plan for a new version of its Oracle Power Objects development tool, outfitted with new mobile and intranet development capabilities intended to better compete with Microsoft's Visual Basic.

Oracle (ORCL) today laid out its plan for a new version of its Oracle Power Objects development tool, outfitted with new mobile and intranet development capabilities intended to better compete with Microsoft's Visual Basic.

Power Objects uses the same Basic language syntax as Visual Basic, but has been used primarily by Oracle's installed base of database software customers to build client applications linked to back-end Oracle servers.

Power Objects 2.0, due to ship by year's end, will expand the tool's focus to include building mobile and intranet applications, according to Neil Morgan, product marketing manager for Power Objects, and that could help the company attract additional developers to its camp.

Morgan said 80 to 90 percent of Power Objects users are also Oracle database customers. He added more than 50 percent of users downloading the current version of Power Objects from the company's Web site, though, are not current Oracle customers.

The tool can now generate client applications as plug-ins that run in Web browsers from Netscape Communications and Microsoft as well as in Oracle's PowerBrowser. The tool does not yet generate Java or ActiveX components; ActiveX support is planned for a future update. Morgan said Oracle will detail its plans for Java development tool support in October, but would not elaborate further on the company's plans.

Mobile applications can be built more easily using Power Objects, according to Morgan. The tool now generates smaller footprint client applications, and developers can build data replication more easily, letting mobile apps communicate database changes to corporate databases and vice versa. Also new are class libraries for accessing Oracle's Mobile Agents communications software for supporting occasionally connected users via agent technology.

Power Objects includes Seagate Software's Crystal Reports version 5.0 Professional Edition, for generating reports from corporate databases.

An external API (application programming interface) allows other applications, such as software project management tools, to work with Power Objects. Oracle also hopes the API will also encourage third-party software developers to write add-ons for Power Objects.

Oracle has inked a deal with Crescent Software to bundle Crescent's ActiveX controls with Power Objects. The controls include a calendar display, command buttons, list boxes, and other controls that can be dropped into Power Objects applications. Power Objects also includes an ActiveX control version of Oracle's PowerBrowser that can be embedded in Power Objects applications.

Power Objects is priced at $395 for a Professional Edition, and at $1,995 for a client-server edition that includes database connectivity tools. A multimedia demonstration of the tool is posted on Oracle's Web site.