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Oracle's World of Its Own

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reporter's Notebook: We came here from all over the globe, picked up our OracleWorld bags, and by night became a swarm of 42,000 attendees fanning out across the city by the Bay.

If you've ever wondered just how huge an installed base Oracle has to sell, wine and dine to, look no further than the extravaganza of the OracleWorld show, which literally stopped downtown traffic along parts of Howard Street this week. The city agreed to shut down parts of it for foot traffic.

Oracle was ready for them, starting with klieg lights flashing across the San Francisco skyline Sunday night. Red carpet through the cavernous Moscone convention center greeted attendees.

Each keynote address started out with a blitzing lightshow, complete with heart-stopping music, and jumbo screens flashing Oracle branding. Of course, these multimedia spectacles have become the norm at big trade shows and I'm not sure it still creates impact. You could almost see the thought bubbles above the suits in attendance:

"Yeah, yeah, so where's Larry? How come I can't get Wi-Fi? Let's get on with it."

From Monday to Thursday, attendees bellied up to free lunches, dinners, receptions, a concert with Elton John (with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts as warm-up), massages, and panels by the truckload.

Big pillows the size of a small bed, red and black, lined the walls of the convention area, inviting attendees to take a respite, even a snooze. Everywhere, techies lounged on the floor pillows, laptops glowing in their faces.

Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison even brought along his America's Cup racing yacht, and stuck it at the bottom of the escalators in the Moscone North section, just outside the keynote hall.

By Monday, the boat's sailing crew lined up to greet attendees and sign autographs. More than a few asked them: How'd you get that thing in here?

Nailing The "Other" 50 Percent

One of the adages in the ad business is that 50 percent of what clients spend on advertising rarely works. If only they could figure out which 50 percent.

IBM and consulting firm CapGemini think they have a new way to use analytics to nail that 50 percent that does. They call it Marketing Investment Management, or MIM.

During a break from one of his presentations about it at the IBM conference booth here, Ryan Hendricks of IBM's Global Services division, said IBM is joining with CapGemini and Siebel systems to provide analytics that actually break down how an advertising campaign is performing. It's enough to send shudders through the marketing division: real ROI about how their dollars work.

The Buzziest of Buzzwords

For Joe Burton, director of engineering with Cisco's unified communications business unit, virtualization has a different kind of buzz.

After all, he explained during a demonstration here, unified communications means the ability to run virtualized meetings with attendees that are like holographic images sitting next to another guy 2000 miles away, all in the same room.

"This isn't about cheaper phone calls. It's about transforming business processes," he said of Cisco's Web 2.0 suite of soft phones that enable collaboration and virtual meetings. Real-time video, audio and the ability to form a "smart mob" meeting on the fly just by dragging co-worker's names onto a screen and lasso their "presence" -- that's the virtualization Cisco's talking about.

What's all this time-shifting and anytime, anywhere collaboration mean for today’s always-on info-workers? Analysts and Cisco like to use the term "working moments."

In such an always-connected world of work, we no longer can assume an eight-hour shift at the office. Instead, think of the always-connected lifestyle as a good thing. You have your working moments, when, presumably in some virtual happy state, the information worker takes care of personal stuff, like dropping off or picking up his dry cleaning, in between those "working moments."

In the old days, that used to be called a lunch break and part of a life outside of 24/7 work.

Very Good for SF

It's the peak conference of the year. This was the counter manager's answer as I checked into the Holiday Inn to attend this year's show. "Everybody's rates go up."

He was answering my question about why the hotel rates were so outrageous in the city and beyond. After all, buddies of mine in the Bay area say they put clients up at the same hotel throughout the year for about $70 a night. Just not during OracleWorld week.

Rates for area rooms started at $200 and went up to about close to $500 a night for hotels working with OracleWorld. One Holiday Inn's rate came out to $386 a night (a relative bargain).

If you're wondering just how OracleWorld helps generate an estimated $60 million in tourist dollars for the city, you can start right there.

No wonder San Francisco welcomed the swells. Even motorists took the detours around the convention in stride. This is probably the only city in the world where drivers tend to flip you the peace sign instead of the bird. Memo to New York drivers.