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Oracle pushing development in China

Larry Ellison, appearing at this week's OracleWorld conference in Beijing, offers a peek at the database giant's plans for its fastest-growing market.

In the hope of wooing application developers in China, Oracle has unveiled a Chinese version of its popular online resource center.

The move comes as the database software giant steps up its investments in development centers throughout the country.

The new Oracle Technology Network (OTN) Web site aims to provide free downloads of Oracle development tools and software, technology documentation and support services to developers in the country. Within OTN is a forum for information sharing among developers and a marketplace for job seekers.

The English version, which has been in operation since 1998, has attracted 55,000 users from China, said Rene Bonvanie, vice president of Oracle9i marketing and OTN.

Bonvanie expects to sign up another 165,000 developers in the country as OTN members over the next few months. He spoke to reporters at OracleWorld Beijing 2002, the company's business and IT forum.

Local-language support is the first step toward accessing China's pool of professional developers, which according to market researcher IDC will hit half a million by 2005.

Though there's no charge for software downloads, a licensing fee will apply once the finished product is commercially deployed, said Bonvanie. Oracle has 15 dedicated employees to run the Chinese Web site, he said, but he declined to reveal the amount invested.

Investing in development
The new online initiative comes less than a month after Oracle opened its third Asia-Pacific product development facility in Shenzhen, China, which employs 100 engineers.

In the next few months, Oracle said it will start another development center in Beijing. Oracle said it will open certification and education centers in China and dontate $500,000 in online training to an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation program designed to boost technology training and economic advancement.

"Our investments will be proportional to the growth of our business in China," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at OracleWorld Beijing, which has attracted more than 6,000 attendees despite the FIFA World Cup fever.

The presence of the dependably outspoken Ellison might explain the healthy turnout. Asked by reporters to comment on advances made by rival IBM's DB2 database software, Ellison replied, "DB2 is only popular on (the) mainframe...which is only used by your father!"

Asked if Big Blue is "eating up" market share from Oracle, he cited a recent Goldman Sachs survey of 400 software users.

"Sixty percent of the respondents said their new applications will be built on Oracle, while only 3 percent said they will build on IBM DB2," Ellison said. "If IBM is eating, it's on a starvation diet. IBM has to do their arithmetic to explain why 3 percent is bigger than 60 percent."

China has been identified as Oracle's fastest-growing market worldwide, with an annual 50 percent growth rate.

"The absence of legacy applications and technologies allows China to move with the latest and greatest stuff," said Ellison, who declined to reveal revenue projections for the country.

According to the company, about 150 Chinese companies use the Oracle E-Business Suite, including China Mobile, Bao Steel Group, Hua Wei, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China Airlines. The Bank of China, China Telecom, Shanghai Power and Xinhua News Agency are among its database customers.

Apart from the 100 engineers in Shenzhen, Oracle has approximately 300 workers handling day-to-day operations, sales and support in China.

CNETAsia's Irene Tham reported from Beijing.