November 4, 1996 1:30 PM PST

Oracle down to brass tacks for NC

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Oracle (ORCL) today attempted to add a dose of reality to what has so far been mostly hype for network computers (NCs) by promoting hardware from a handful of third parties and announcing a set of productivity applets, code-named HatTrick, written entirely in Java for the NC platform.

Tonight at its Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, CEO Larry Ellison is expected to fill in the rest of the NC picture, namely how the company is partnering with Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to complete the connection between NCs and server-based corporate applications and data.

Ellison will also demonstrate a NC prototype built around an Intel Pentium chip, according to sources close to the company. Current NC designs are based on a microprocessor from Advanced RISC Machines. Oracle is not, however, disclosing the names of hardware makers planning on building these Pentium NCs, their pricing, or availability, sources said.

This morning's OpenWorld sessions, though, focused on several server-based applications designed to help make the promise of thin clients a reasonable proposition, in addition to the Oracle's HatTrick applets. The HatTrick set includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics program that will be incorporated into Oracle's InterOffice groupware package beginning early next year. The three applications will run in standard Web browsers so that any client can use them, according to Mark Jarvis, vice president of server marketing at Oracle. The company has not announced pricing.

NC Incorporated, the Oracle division tasked with NC reference specification design, today announced NC Server, a set of server-based software applications built atop Oracle's database software to supply services to NC clients. NC Server authenticates users' identities so that they can have secure access to back-end services via smart cards plugged into NCs. The software also dishes out applications and data to the NCs and handles all management and logistical planning. The software is expected to ship early next year, but the company didn't announce pricing.

As previously reported by CNET, Oracle also today announced the following:

--Developer/2000 for the Web, a tool for moving existing Oracle applications to the Web.

--Oracle Web Server version 2.1, now including support for the Internet Server API (application programming interface) from Microsoft, in addition to Netscape Communication's Netscape Server API.

--A new data analysis tool called Discoverer.

--The ROLAP Option for Universal Server, a tool for allowing multidimensional data analysis on relational databases.

Oracle also helped promote third-party vendors today by spotlighting the wave of NCs available now and due in the next few months. Vendors included the following:

--Acorn Computer, which is already shipping its NC in Europe, and plans to ship a sub-$400 NC in the United States next year. The company will also disclose plans to ship a phone-based NC and a set-top NC.

--Akai, which will demonstrate a $349 set-top NC expected to ship in the first quarter of next year.

--FunaiElectric, one of the world's largest VCR makers, which will show a sub-$500 consumer NC.

--Idea, which will introduce a $500 NC aimed at corporate users.

--Uniden, which will show a wireless NC targeted at consumers.

--Proton, which will announce a $499 set-top NC.

Lastly, the company plugged five third-party applications, or cartridges in Oracle's parlance, which plug into the company's Web server so that NCs can have access to new Web-based services. Bluestone Software, Gradient Technologies, Haht Software, Saqqara Systems, and SourceCraft said they will enable their applications to run as cartridges.

An additional vendor, Virage, will announce intentions tomorrow to bring its pattern recognition software to Oracle's NC architecture, allowing users to search an Oracle database to find an image based on color or shape.


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