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Oracle, Sun plans are sans operating system

Oracle and Sun are announcing a joint effort to develop a new type of computer that doesn't require an operating system.

    The operating system is history.

    That is, if Oracle and Sun Microsystems are successful in their joint effort to be announced today to develop a new type of computer that doesn't require an operating system.

    "The product will likely include the Oracle8i database environment running on Sun hardware, using only a Unix microkernal," AMR Research in Boston wrote in a report on the pending announcement. "The microkernal is expected to be Solaris-based, Sun's Unix platform, but it may be one of the several open-source versions of Unix."

    Oracle chief Larry Ellison and Sun chief Scott McNealy are scheduled to take the stage together today to detail the project at a joint press conference beginning at 10 a.m. PT.

    The announcement builds on Ellison's speech last month at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, in which he outlined plans to bundle Oracle's database software on hardware systems that don't need Microsoft's Windows NT or rival operating systems.

    Most are viewing the project as a direct attack on Microsoft.

    "What Oracle and Sun are doing here is cutting out Microsoft," said Rob Enderle, analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "That would get them both excited and is reasonably compelling."

    It is also a "Plan B" for Sun and Oracle, which previously promoted network computers as the way to break Microsoft's choke hold on the industry. The firms have since backed off that idea, leaving the desktop as is. Instead, they are looking at the server as the means to loosen Microsoft's grip.

    But like the NC, the success of this plan will depend greatly on others' acceptance of the idea.

    "The ultimate success will depend on the willingness of independent software vendors to build and support applications on the platform and on the acceptance of these application-specific servers by enterprise customers," AMR said in its report.

    Enderle added that Sun and Oracle might be able to capitalize on users' unhappiness with Microsoft right now. A recent Giga survey showed that Microsoft is not in favor with its corporate customers.

    "Dissatisfaction is extremely high with Microsoft, much higher than with anyone else," Enderle said. "It looks like the market might respond very favorably to this."

    Reuters contributed to this report.