Oracle Outlines Plans For NC2

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison yesterday reiterated his commitment to the concept of the network computer. Speaking at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in Los Angeles, Ellison said Oracle is creating a new company to develop and sell software for a new model of desktop network computer. Ellison said the NCs would be assembled by several manufacturers and be available next year, but details about what he called "Network Computer Version 2" were sketchy.

Demonstrating a prototype of the product, Ellison said the machines will provide a low-cost platform for the Internet in businesses, schools, and homes. The system, which he sometimes referred to as the "Internet computer reborn," will include a CD-ROM drive, a modem, and a keyboard. It will carry a price tag of $199, not including a monitor, Ellison said.

Never one to miss an opportunity to criticize Microsoft and its personal computer-centric style of computing, Ellison derided personal computers running Microsoft software as complex and expensive. "Anything you can do with a PC on the Internet, you can do with an NC," he said.

Ellison said the first Network Computer 2 models will be available in the first quarter of 2000, with the products available in volume in the second quarter. But he didn't say more about who would manufacture the devices or what software would run on them. Even the specific relationship between Oracle and the new company was vague. Later, an Oracle spokeswoman, attempting to fill in the gaps in Ellison's statements, would only say that a CEO for the new company has been hired and that a formal announcement of the plan will be made in early 2000.

More than three years ago, Oracle created a subsidiary to develop network computer technology. But the platform never lived up to the hype, and that subsidiary--now a public company called Liberate Technologies Inc.--is developing technology to allow users to access the Web through TVs.

During a press conference following his keynote, Ellison also said he believed that Microsoft should be broken up into three companies as a result of the recent court finding that the software company illegally used its monopoly power against competitors such as Netscape. "The wealthiest company in the world drove the most innovative company in the world out of business," he said.

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