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The week's news: Starring the Net

The widespread availability Ken Starr's report validates the Internet as a mass medium, even as Oracle's product strategy delivers another shot in the arm.

    The world's biggest news story this week, the delivery of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report, proved a stunning validation of the Internet as a mass medium. But database giant Oracle also delivered a shot in the arm, basing the newest version of its flagship product around the capability of running online.

    Crash
    Even before Starr delivered his report on Wednesday, Congress wrestled with the question of whether and how to make it public. On Thursday the House Rules committee voted to post it online, a resolution the full body passed the next day by a 363 to 63. "Seems like a smart way to get the information out quickly," White House spokesman Mike McCurry acknowledged in a press conference.

    But the flood of traffic immediately threatened to bring the Net to its knees.

    Software filtering firms sought to make hay of the report's widespread availability. Ironically, also on Friday a House subcommittee held a hearing hearing on how to protect children from obscenity on the Internet.

    Explosion
    The scope of Oracle's Internet gambit became clearer, as the company revealed the next version of its database program will be able to store Web pages as well as common office files and multimedia.

    CEO Larry Ellison had quite a week. During a press briefing about the upcoming Oracle 8i, he described two separate incidents where Microsoft's Bill Gates apparently intervened to stymie developmental projects seen as threatening, allegedly stopping Digital Equipment's work on a Network Computer being jointly developed with Oracle and undermining industry work on the creation of a unified Unix operating system.

    Ellison also revealed he backed away from a plan to buy Apple Computer in early 1997 because of fears that the Justice Department would object.

    On the financial side, the company's shares spiked after the company reported a sharp increase in database sales helped produce a quarterly profit of 20 cents a share, beating Wall Street's earnings estimates.

    Proliferation
    Oracle also said it is forming partnerships with four vendors who specialize in Linux operating systems. Informix, Dell, and Intel are also among those who think the freely available operating system is ready for corporate use.

    Compaq Computer elbowed past its enterprise competitors via a technology alliance with Microsoft, giving the Houston-based PC vendor a stake in the future development of Windows NT.

    Global PC sales seem to be rebounding despite worldwide economic uncertainties, with iMac frenzy expected to double Apple's shipments while Dell continues to gain ground. Sales grew 11 percent last quarter, and are expected to grow 12.2 percent for the second half of 1998.

    The latest wave of high-end 300-MHz notebooks is pushing down the cost of 266-MHz portables, which were much pricier only a week ago.

    Shares of Intel jumped higher after the company said that revenues for its third calendar quarter will be 8 to 10 percent stronger than expected due to stronger demand in North America and Europe, still unaffected by economic turmoil.

    Expansion
    Web portal Infoseek will pay Microsoft $26 million for a two-year agreement to be the exclusive provider of search and directory services on WebTV. Analysts were surprised by the deal because they thought Microsoft would have chosen its own Microsoft Network portal technology, which is to be launched in the near future.

    The Walt Disney Company's quiet registration of the "go.com" domain name suggests that the simple moniker may be the code name--or the name itself--for the media giant's much-anticipated portal site. Disney, Infoseek, and Starwave are teaming up to create a gateway.

    Excite will expand its existing service into Australia and other markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Also of note
    WallStreetSex.com, a little-known adult entertainment site that mixes steamy photos with stock quotes, was threatened with a copyright infringement lawsuit by the well-regarded investment publication TheStreet.com ? ITEX, a publicly traded Internet company based in Portland, Oregon, is suing 100 "John Does" for allegedly posting inaccurate and defamatory statements about it on a Yahoo Finance message board ? Siemens's plans to sell its main personal computer plant to Acer collapsed because of irreconcilable differences over financing ? Adobe Systems strongly denied a published report that it plans to stop supporting its Apple customers, the same day it reported disappointing third-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share exclusive of special charges, down 20 cents from the year-ago third quarter ? Sun and Microsoft executives testified for three days in a hearing on Sun's motion for a temporary injunction to bar Microsoft from distributing Java software that doesn't meet Sun compatibility tests.