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CNET's Smith named as Oracle spin-off chief

Oracle names a chief executive for the company's latest spin-off, called New Internet Computer Co.

Oracle today named a chief executive for the company's latest spin-off, called New Internet Computer Co.

The database giant said Gina Smith, co-host of CNET News.com's technology show, will head the new unit as its first employee.

With NIC, Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison is resurrecting an idea he championed years ago: to build a scaled-down desktop system-known generically as the network computer. In November, Ellison said he planned to ship new models of the network computer during the first quarter of this year.

Ellison's first crack at building a network computer came with Network Computer Inc. (NCI), which changed its name last May to Liberate Technologies and went public in July.

Though hotly debated in computer industry circles in 1996 and 1997, the network computing concept failed to gain a market foothold, in part because PC prices suddenly fell to historic lows--lessening the need for new, low-cost systems. When Ellison and others first began touting the network computer, traditional "standalone" desktops typically cost well over $1,500. Today prices begin around $400.

NIC is Ellison's latest attempt to revive the idea that customers want a pared-down system that will connect to the Internet to a remote server that will host Oracle software.

Smith, 35, joined CNET News.com television show last August after serving as the technology correspondent for ABC News. Smith, who has been covering computer trends and news for over 10 years, has also written technology columns for the San Francisco Examiner and the Chronicle.