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Oracle wades deeper into collaboration

The database giant takes aim at Microsoft's SharePoint with what it calls simplified content management.

Oracle has released an upgrade to its collaboration software, a move it says will step up the competition with Microsoft.

The database giant said on Monday that Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g will add two important features, including an end-user-oriented document-sharing tool and a revamped content management server called Oracle Content Services. The entire suite will cost $60 per name user.

A new feature called Collaboration Workspaces is a program for posting shared documents and scheduling information with other employees on a Web server. It will mimic the project management capabilities offered in Microsoft's SharePoint portal server. Yet, according to Robert Shimp, vice president of technology marketing at Oracle, it will have a more centralized design.

"This is a new area for us," Shimp said. "In combination with Oracle Content Services, we can go aggressively against SharePoint with a more centralized content offering that IT organizations around the world will want."

Oracle's Collaboration Suite is built on top of its database, which stores and manages documents. Executives say the database-centric design makes it easier for IT administrators to control.

Oracle Content Services is an upgrade to Oracle Files, a program for managing and sharing files. Oracle engineers have made the content server's capabilities available through Web services protocols, which is supposed to make it easier to integrate with different business applications, said Rich Buchheim, Oracle's senior director for content product and strategy.

"This really allows an enterprise to store contents once and use them in different environments," Buchheim said.

With the upgraded collaboration product line, the database giant is betting it can displace entrenched offerings, such as Microsoft Outlook and high-end document management systems. Oracle sells primarily into its installed base of database customers, Shimp said.

Oracle is also keeping an eye on open-source alternatives to entrenched messaging and collaboration software.

The company has at least one employee involved with the Mozilla Foundation's Lighting Project and is "tracking it closely," Buchheim said. Mozilla Lighting is a project to link the open-source Thunderbird e-mail system with Mozilla's calendaring application, SunBird.