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Oracle preps for front office push

Oracle is rolling out next month its full suite of front office management applications with plans to take the product to the top of the field.

    Front office application vendors are about to get some more competition.

    Oracle is rolling out next month its full suite of front office management applications with plans to take the product to the top of the field.

    "We want to be No. 2 by the end of the year," said Mark Barrenechea, Oracle's vice president of front office applications product development. "We still have work to do in the depth and definition but we have all the function in the module now."

    Oracle has been trickling out pieces of the application for the past year. Last month, the Redwood Shores, California-based firm bought call center product maker Versatility to round out the offering. By the end of the year, the Versatility technology is to be fully integrated into the package.

    Most of the enterprise resource planning vendors are expanding their products beyond the back office where the software handles mostly transactional functions and manages internal business processes.

    SAP last month at its user group conference committed to building a front office package of marketing management, sales force automation, and customer service applications, that could stand on its own and that would be a top three player. And Baan bought top player Aurum Software last year and is selling Aurum as an integrated product with Baan's enterprise resource planning system and as a standalone product.

    All this adds up to a tough run for the front office application vendors like Vantive and Siebel, who are working double time to stay one step ahead of the enterprise resource planning vendors.

    That job is going to be even more difficult with Oracle's new offering. Oracle is rolling out a huge package that covers nearly every corner of the front office space from call centers to marketing to sales. Oracle already has some key customers on board too like Egghead Software and international publishing giant Bertlesmann, which is looking to take on Amazon.com and bought a huge stake in Barnes and Noble today to accomplish that end.

    "It's going to be tough for these [front office vendors]," said Steve Bonadio, analyst at the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "It's not a very bright future for them."

    In other Oracle news, Oracle today announced it is ready to ship its Oracle8i database for the increasingly popular Linux operating system and Apache, a free source code Web application server. Oracle is one of a number of vendors who has latched on to Linux as a viable and cheaper alternative to closed or proprietary operating systems.