Ellison: Who needs fat clients?

Oracle chief executive says the industry has voted and it wants browsers to access their Internet appliance-based apps

Gates or Ellison? Microsoft or Oracle? Fat clients or thin clients? Whose vision of the future of the software industry sounds more convincing? Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison announced the Oracle 9i Application Server product and a partnership with Compaq Computer to resell the software on two-way Compaq ProLiant servers during his Monday night Comdex/Fall '00 keynote speech. As usual, Ellison didn't miss an opportunity to diss archrival Microsoft along the way. In a press question-and-answer session, preceding his remarks, Ellison explained why he believes Microsoft's fat client/fat server vision isn't as viable as Oracle's thin client/fat server one. During his Sunday night keynote speech, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates talked up the reasons that users will continue to require full operating systems and application suites on a variety of devices. "People are taking their apps off PCs and putting them on servers," Ellison told press conference attendees, and cited as examples PeopleSoft, Siebel, SAP, and Intuit, in addition to Oracle itself. "The only things left on PCs are Office and games," he continued. "You're considered a dead company if you write applications for the PC." When asked about the viability of Microsoft's forthcoming Tablet PC device, which Gates debuted Sunday night, Ellison said that he considered "pen computing kind of irrelevant." "Does anyone want to do email with a pen?" he quipped.

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Compaq chief executive Michael Capellas joined Ellison on stage to reveal details of the partnership. Sources said that Michael Dell was slated to participate in the Ellison keynote and to be the first OEM to resell the Oracle 9i Application Server, but that the Dell deal fell through in the eleventh hour. Neither Oracle nor Dell would comment on the rumours regarding the two companies. Compaq had done a previous deal with Oracle that allowed Dell to resell Oracle 8i database appliance software on ProLiant systems. Ellison said that Oracle planned to finalise additional Oracle 9i Application Server deals with Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, but declined to offer timetables. Ellison also declined to comment on which embedded operating system resided in the Compaq appliance, other than to say it was "anonymously" developed by Oracle and an unnamed partner. He said the design of the appliances would allow Oracle to change seamlessly which operating system core resided in the appliances, and that the company was not wedded to a single OS choice. While Ellison held court with the press inside a Hilton hotel ballroom, Microsoft distributed what it called "million-dollar mugs" to Ellison keynote attendees just before Ellison took the stage. Microsoft's claim is that Oracle's salesforce slashes database prices by up to am dollars when attempting to wrench database business away from Microsoft with its SQL Server offering. "When Oracle salesman pitches $5m of overpriced software, simply glance at [the Microsoft] mug," said Microsoft in its promotion. "Oracle salesman spots mug, offers 20 percent discount," Microsoft added. During his keynote, Ellison also highlighted -- as he has done repeatedly in various keynotes over the past two months -- its benchmarking challenges which pit Oracle's 9i database against Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Oracle claims that even though Microsoft holds the Number One spot in the Transaction Processing Council TPC-C price/performance rankings, the only software which Microsoft can run at acceptable levels of speed and reliability in a clustered SQL Server configuration is the TPC-C benchmarking suite. Microsoft recently issued a cease-and-desist letter, forbidding Oracle from publishing benchmark results without Microsoft's permission. See full coverage at ZDNet UK's Comdex Fall 2000 Special Report. For complete enterprise coverage, see ZDNet UK's Enterprise Channel. Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.