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Oracle NC falling into place

Important pieces of Oracle's branded Network Computer platform will fall into place next week when the company announces a new NC based on an Intel chip and a suite of Java applications.

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Several important pieces of Oracle's (ORCL) branded Network Computer platform will fall into place next week when the company announces a new NC based on an Intel chip and a suite of Java productivity applications.

The announcements will come at Oracle's OpenWorld '96 conference in San Francisco and will fall between major NC pushes by Sun Microsystems, which announced its JavaStation device this week, and IBM, which is planning to unveil a PowerPC-based NC at Comdex later this month.

Oracle officials said next week's conference will unify its NC efforts with those of IBM and Sun. Today, company officials also took shots at Microsoft's NetPC initiative, an effort announced earlier this week to make PCs cheaper to maintain within corporations.

"The war will be between Microsoft with its NetPC, which is basically a PC without a floppy drive, and the rest of the industry," said Marc Jarvis, Oracle's vice president of server marketing, today at the company's International Alliance Conference, a meeting between company executives and its channel partners.

Oracle will demonstrate a suite of productivity applications, code-named HatTrick, that are written entirely in Java. The applications include a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics, all of which require less than 2MB of memory and no hard disk space on the client side, according to company officials.

The HatTrick applications will be incorporated into InterOffice, Oracle's groupware software, and will adhere to the Network Computing Architecture (NCA), an Oracle framework for Internet applications. The HatTrick word processor and graphics applets will ship with InterOffice 4.1 in the first quarter of 1997, while the spreadsheet applet will be available in the second quarter, Oracle said.

Pricing will be announced when the product is released.

At OpenWorld, Oracle is also expected to announce details on a new version of its NC that is based on a Pentium microprocessor from Intel. Previously, the company had indicated it would create an Intel-based NC, but had only unveiled plans for another device based on a chip from Advanced RISC Machines.

Oracle is expected to announce pricing for the Intel NC and hardware partners that will manufacture the device.

Next week, Oracle will also officially announce Developer/2000 for the Web, a development tool that allows programmers to quickly recast their proprietary applications for use through Web browsers. The tool will be released in the first quarter of 1997 and will go into beta testing on Windows NT and Solaris by the end of 1996.

Today, Sun and Oracle announced that the companies expect to ship the HatTrick applets and Developer/2000 for the Web with Sun's Netra J server, announced earlier this week.

At the company's International Alliance Conference, a number of Oracle business partners expressed enthusiasm for the NC, which they view as way to expand the market for Oracle's mainstay business: servers.

"We see the NC as just another deployment medium," said David Drummond, Oracle business manager at Progress Software.

But other partners were more conservative, saying companies will move slowly to Oracle's NC and NCA architecture from established enterprise computing.

"The marketplace is not all of a sudden going to change to the NCA," said Stephanie Davidson, director of sales for Technology, Management & Analysis. "Your average business, at least for a couple of years, will be running standard client-server applications."

"Customers aren't asking for the NC," Davidson added. "They don't even know it exists."