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Oracle President Promises to Go on the 'Offensive'

Oracle President Chuck Phillips promised to go after Microsoft and others in several market segments this year, including trying to lure SQL server users to its 10g database platform and Windows users to its own evolving collaboration suite.

Phillips said Oracle would be aggressive in 2004 in trying to sell itself as a company that provides database software, application servers and applications that are easier to use and priced more competitively, both key areas the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based enterprise software company has historically trailed rivals in.

The newly-elected president held forth on the state of his company for financial analysts held concurrently with Oracle's AppsWorld conference in San Diego, Calif.

Both happenings come against a backdrop of uncertainty over its hostile $7.5 billion bid for rival PeopleSoft, which faces an uncertain future while the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission investigate both companies and what the large merger would mean for the applications market.

Any angst over the uphill merger battle, rife with legal proceedings, wasn't obvious, as Phillips and other executives spoke with great optimism about the potential of growth 2004 holds for Oracle and the enterprise software market.

Phillips said Oracle has been getting a lot of interest about its "grid" software strategy from chief information officers looking for a low cost alternative to machines from other vendors.

Announced last year, 10g concept stresses the availability of commodity one to four CPU servers, running Linux and connected to networked storage via interconnect technologies to provide the infrastructure required to help CIOs reduce costs without compromising the speed and fluidity of business processes. It includes a database server, an application server, and management software.

Oracle has both the advantage of being a widespread proven incumbent in the database market, and the disadvantage of being a target for the other usual rivals, Microsoft and IBM, which ritually point to Oracle's notorious software complexity issues and higher costs.

Phillips reserved the greatest degree of tough talk for Microsoft. While Linux remains Oracle's main operating system, the executive said Oracle would tailor its software to work with Windows to please customers. "Many people download the Windows version of our tools."

Phillips cited a recent Gartner report in which Microsoft said it was leaving partitioning and clustering features out of its next operating system release, code-named Longhorn. The executive said this is "good news for us" and called it a "product advantage" because it paves the way for Oracle to step in and pitch 10g to customers who desire those capabilities.

"We're going on the offensive," he said.

Phillips also said Oracle will aggressively push its young collaboration suite, which encompasses Web conferencing, e-mail, fax, voicemail in one database before Longhorn comes to market, pledging to "attack the installed base" before Longhorn reaches fruition.

In a cost-effectiveness analysis, Phillips compared Oracle 10g to an IBM on-demand system, noting that the total cost of ownership for 10g was $8,000 to IBM's $46,000. He also demonstrated a 10g database installation, which took 10 minutes. Previously, he said, such a large-scale install of an Oracle database might have taken two days.

"We believe 10g is a mass market technology and not just for the high-end," Phillips said.

The financial analyst day was interspersed with broadcast keynotes from the AppsWorld show, including executive vice president of Applications Development Ron Wohl and CEO Larry Ellison.

Strategic promises aside, one constant theme of the analyst day and AppsWorld is the Customer Data Hub, the company's new business intelligence platform, which Phillips and Wohl discussed in detail. CDH is comprised of the customer definition portion of the data model, application server, database, and librarian tools to do loading, mapping and data cleansing.

Customers can view data online with options on top, including pre-built analytics for customer analysis. Along those lines, Oracle this week also introduced the concept of Dynamic Business Intelligence, which situates the data warehouse directly into the database for more seamless information retrieval.