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Oracle breaks silence on Apollo

Oracle next week will unveil Project Apollo, its e-commerce software for companies that want to reach consumers through the Web.

Breaking a conspicuous silence, Oracle (ORCL) will on May 19 unveil Project Apollo, its electronic commerce software for companies that want to reach consumers through the Web.

Although Oracle will confirm few details of its merchant server, it has posted a detailed Project Apollo white paper on its Web site. No pricing is detailed, however.

Apollo, which went into beta testing in December, supports secure payments with micropayments for low-dollar sum purchases, electronic checks, and credit cards with the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol to be published May 31.

The largely Java-based e-commerce application is a cartridge that plugs into Oracle's Web Applications Server 3.0, its Oracle7-powered Universal Server, and its network computing architecture.

Originally announced October 15 for release by March, Project Apollo is not only late but comes during a period of rapid change in the e-commerce software market.

Microsoft last week announced it would ship a new version of its merchant software this fall for $5,000, a huge cut from $18,490 for its first version. The software giant is emphasizing new business-to-business features in forthcoming Commerce Server 2.0.

Open Market, an e-commerce pioneer, is likewise stressing the interbusiness space and Web hosting companies, while Connect, hit by a bad first quarter, is stressing packaged applications rather than highly customized e-commerce solutions. BroadVision continues to market its personalization software for e-commerce.

Meanwhile, a host of smaller players like iCat, Vision Factory, Intershop, and SpaceWorks, and InterWorld Technology are targeting smaller niches in online catalogs, order management, Web storefronts, and online software distribution.

Oracle, by contrast, bills Project Apollo as a scalable, end-to-end solution that features the following:

  • Integration through open APIs (application programming interfaces) with third-party cartridges for order entry, inventory, tax calculations, payments, and shipping.

  • On-the-fly generation of Web pages to individual shoppers by tracking prior activity and stated preferences.

  • Easy configuration using wizards and customizable templates to create Web storefronts in multiple international languages.

  • Search features based on Oracle's ConText software, a shopping cart for shoppers to store purchases as they move through a Web storefront, and a secure in-store "wallet" for shoppers to store coupons, receipts, and credit card data.

    Oracle's partners for Project Apollo include sales tax software firm Taxware, firewall vendor Trusted Information Systems, digital ID vendor VeriSign, secure software container firm Portland Software, and payment firms CyberCash, VeriFone, and First Data Merchant Services.