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Oracle Charts Application Roadmap

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ed Abbo, Oracle's senior vice president for application development and the leader of Oracle's Applications Unlimited program, on Tuesday outlined the software company's long-term applications strategy during his keynote address at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

While he did sprinkle in a few new products and ideas, most of the presentation touched on familiar themes.

Abbo said Oracle is still very much committed to its Applications Unlimited program to provide support to customers running legacy systems from the likes of PeopleSoft, Siebel and J.D. Edwards. It believes its Fusion middleware platform will be the key to driving innovation and cost savings by providing the integration layer above all these disparate applications and processes.

In the meantime, the company is scrambling to develop, test and eventually release a suite of new Fusion Applications that will, potentially, serve as the carrot to entice new and old customers alike to eventually abandon their legacy applications in favor of an end-to-end Oracle software suite.

However, the details on exactly what these Fusion applications will be and when they'll actually be ready for customer deployment remains almost as murky and uncertain as it was before Abbo took the stage.

Following his keynote address, Abbo told InternetNews.com the company is still committed to rolling out Fusion applications "next year," but wouldn't provide any more clarity on whether that means the first quarter, by the middle of summer or, perhaps, at next year's OpenWorld extravaganza.

Regarding Oracle's overall applications strategy, Abbo told the audience it continues to be "all around providing you choice." Choice is something Oracle can provide in spades by virtue of the 45 acquisitions it's made in the past four years.

"As your business needs dictate, you can take advantage of new releases," Abbo said. "We're making substantial investments in bringing our applications together. And each new release adopts Fusion technology. The intention is provide consistency across all applications and, second, evolve you closer to the next generation of applications which is Fusion Applications."

Oracle provided only the slightest hint of what these Fusion Applications may actually look like during a fairly rapid-fire presentation squeezed in at the end of Abbo's presentation. Steve Miranda, senior vice president of applications development, raced through a demo of a Fusion Application that included some new embedded business intelligence features for sales managers evaluating salary and bonus data to make more analytical decisions in real-time rather than providing an after-the-fact snapshot.

Oracle intends to deliver Fusion Applications through its WebCenter Framework technology. WebCenter, according to Oracle, gives developers a standards-based, declarative development of interfaces and a common metadata model for creating composite applications. It allows you to embed content and gadgets (or widgets) in your application, something every enterprise software company appears to be obsessed about delivering these days.

What other types of applications Oracle will provide sometime in 2008 remains a mystery. Abbo said in addition to the application briefly demoed Tuesday, Oracle has "many more, a lot more" applications in store for enterprise clients.

Last month, John Wookey, the man originally responsible for leading application development for Fusion Applications, resigned purportedly as a result of a difference of opinion with CEO Larry Ellison regarding the unit's long-term strategic vision. The details are sketchy but it's not hard to understand how Oracle might be struggling with both servicing all the legacy applications it has acquired over the years and developing new products of its own to create future revenue streams.

Abbo did spend quite a bit of time lauding the virtues of the company's partnership with Google and its participation in the search giant's OpenSocial standard. It's clear Oracle intends to bring mashups and gadgets (again, widgets) to the enterprise as part of its overall plan to connect these decidedly Web 2.0 applications to CRM  applications.

Oracle plans to make something it's calling the Oracle Sales Library available to, as Abbo put it, "build on social networking constructs." It supposedly will allow sales personnel to tie together data and provide social content such as the best RFPs or sales presentations inside an organization for consumption by all members of the organization.

"It's the application of social networking into what's really a social interaction," Abbo said.