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Oracle to announce venture capital fund

Oracle's $100 million venture capital fund will invest in start-up companies developing Internet applications or services based on its software.

Oracle will announce a $100 million venture capital fund for investing in startup companies developing Internet applications or services based on its software technology.

Oracle's goal is to elicit support for its strategy of driving businesses to the Web, according to someone familiar with the company's plans, set to be made public on Thursday. Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle is betting heavily on the Internet, having predicated its upcoming Oracle 8i database on the online medium while recrafting its business application software to be Internet-friendly. The company also has a line of Internet commerce software.

In choosing from among funding candidates, Oracle will work with venture capital firms. The VC firms will find prospective companies and send proposals to Oracle, and the software maker will decide whether to fund the applicants on a case-by-case basis.

The venture capital firms will be expected to sink money into the startup companies too.

To be considered by Oracle, the small companies must be Internet-based, the source said. "This is to foster people to write for the Oracle platform ? to get people to think of Oracle as the Internet platform."

"It's similar in scope to what others like Intel, Novell, and Adobe are doing. It's like what Sun did with the Java fund."

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and executive vice president Gary Bloom are expected to make the announcement on Thursday afternoon at Oracle's headquarters. Top venture capital firms have been invited to the meeting to learn how to participate.

Oracle executives did not return phone calls today.

The company has been touting the Internet's capabilities for years, and taken its own advice. As part of its plan to boost sagging sales in its applications division and flat sales in its database division, Oracle last year launched plans to transfer, or port, all of its products to the Web.

Specifically, Oracle is hoping its much-anticipated Oracle 8i database--recently delayed until the end of February--will play an integral role in rejuvenating sales. The outspoken Ellison claims Oracle 8i will be the only product companies need to build business applications accessible via a Web browser.

The flagship database will feature an "Internet file system" for storing and managing Web pages as well as word processing files, spreadsheets, and multimedia data.