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Oracle looks beyond big-ticket contracts

The small-business push is aimed squarely at Microsoft, database giant executives acknowledge.

Oracle has begun selling business application software to small companies in conjunction with a team of partners, the database giant said Monday.

The announcement confirms Oracle's previously reported plan to move beyond its typical multimillion-dollar software deals and target smaller U.S. businesses.

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Accordingly, the database giant will sell a new version of its E-Business Suite that includes the features most needed by small organizations. Dubbed the E-Business Suite Special Edition, the package bundles tools for handling order processing, customer billing, and inventory and supply management.

Oracle acknowledged that its move to cater to small businesses is driven by the fact that large businesses aren't buying as much software after years of big spending.

"The high-end part of market is more mature. Those customers have already made (software) decisions," Oracle President Charles Phillips said in a media teleconference. "We can sit around and wait for things to happen there, or we can create new opportunities."

Oracle's small-business push is aimed squarely at Microsoft, which has entered both the database and software applications markets with lower-price products, Oracle executives acknowledged.

"This will be right in our strike zone," said Keith Block, Oracle's executive vice president of North American sales.

Under the new program, Oracle introduced a reduced entry-level price for its database software. The new pricing is $149 per user, or $49.95 per central processing unit, for a maximum to two processors. The price of the E-business Suite Standard Edition is approximately $2,000 per user, according to an Oracle representative.

Oracle has also set up a team of partners to market the suite, including Abaris, Baytree Associates, Core Services, Favored Tack, Lucidity Consulting Group, Oto Global Solutions, Vertex Systems and Whitbread Technology Partners.

Licenses are available for a minimum of 10 users and a maximum of 50 users, Oracle said. Its partners, which will implement, host and support the new package, will decide on the pricing.

Oracle already has a similar program in place in Europe and Asia.

CNET's Alorie Gilbert contributed to this report.