Hype-free show for Oracle apps launch

Sober but sure message as company releases new versions of five apps

Oracle’s launch of new releases of its five application families was a surprisingly sober affair, designed to restate the company’s pledge last year to continue to enhance its PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel and Oracle E-Business Suite products.

The event, which took place on January 31 in New York, consisted of a series of presentations and product demonstrations from Oracle executives, outlining the functionalities of the new versions. There was little in the way of theatrics.

Oracle displayed E-Business Suite (EBS) 12.0, PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, Siebel CRM 8.0, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12 and JD Edwards World A9.1.

At the time of the acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel many users expressed concerns that Oracle would either force them to migrate to EBS or to Fusion, its planned new applications suite due to appear in 2008. In May, Oracle committed publicly to continuing to support and improve all the acquired applications under an initiative called “Applications Unlimited”. The New York event was the proof of that commitment, according to Oracle executives.

“We thought we did a lot of work pitching Apps Unlimited at OpenWorld, but we found afterwards users still had a lot of questions,” said John Wookey, senior vice president of applications at Oracle, at the event. Oracle’s OpenWorld user conference was in October, in San Francisco. Although JD Edwards World A9.1 shipped last April, the other products have only recently become available — for instance, EBS 12.0 debuted just two weeks ago.

Capabilities across all the applications include role-based analytics, business intelligence dashboards, master-data management and XML-based reporting. Specific improvements include a new task-based user interface and enterprise search functionality in Siebel 8.0, and new human capital management features, such as talent management, in PeopleSoft 9.0

Wookey also said plans are under way for the next releases of all the products. “Apps Unlimited is not a one-time thing; it will go forward,” he said. For instance, Siebel 8.1, which will include a focus on self-service capabilities, should be out late this year.

All the applications are integrated with Oracle’s Fusion middleware, created using an SOA (service-oriented architecture) development approach. The idea is that by moving to the new versions of the Oracle applications, users will be well positioned to adopt the SOA-based Fusion applications come 2008. The Fusion applications will be based on Oracle’s Fusion middleware.

The only moments of unintentional levity came in the question and answer session, when there was persistent feedback and echoes as customers and partners in Amsterdam, London, Mexico City and Paris posed questions to the Oracle executives in New York. Much of the tenor of the questions suggested some users are still confused about their choices.

The Oracle Applications Users Group recommends that users move to the new releases sooner rather than later, according to Basheer Khan, a major participant in the group. “The sooner you’re able to adopt and train-up your IT the better,” he said.

Khan described the product launch as a “feather in Oracle’s cap”, and a move that’s made users of the applications feel a lot more comfortable. “One thing we were concerned about was pricing,” he said. “But now Oracle has said there are no upgrade fees; it’s just like another upgrade.” Customers are also pleased with Oracle’s decision, in late December, to simplify its pricing model, making life easier for users running a number of different Oracle applications.

Khan was also pleased to hear Wookey confirm that the Fusion applications will be integrated with several earlier versions of each application family.

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