Oracle's Ellison sees Sun as NC competition

Oracle's Larry Ellison expounds on network computers, Netscape, Novell and the lost child that is Apple.

Oracle boss Larry Ellison sees the company's toughest competition in the network computer market coming from Sun, not from a breakaway group of former Oracle employees.

Following a customer briefing here last week, Ellison dismissed a planned family of single-application information appliances from Diba, a startup formed by former Oracle employees. "Ridiculous," Ellison says. "The great thing about computers is you can program them. You don't have the interface in the appliance; you have it in the software."

Sun's Java stations will give Oracle the most competition, Ellison says. Appliances will eventually come out based on Intel processors, but at a higher price point -- roughly US$700 -- than planned for appliances based on ARM's chip, he says. (See IBM announces)

Microsoft has scorned Ellison's idea of a diskless network computer since he introduced it one year ago, but Ellison believes the software giant will change its tune. "They turned around on the Internet, and they will turn around on the network computer," Ellison says.

Ellison questions Netscape's decision to spinoff a company to produce a trimmed-down version of its browser for consumer devices, saying that the job is "so important that Netscape should be doing it by itself. Netscape should be the one pursuing NCs very aggressively," Ellison says. "They're not. They're locked into PCs, and I think it's hopeless to compete with Microsoft because the Internet will be in the next version of Windows."

When asked to comment on what he would have done to save Novell, where CEO Robert Frankenberg announced his resignation a week ago, Ellison says he would not have taken the job. "Novell is destined to become a niche player," Ellison says. "You can only change strategies so often."

Ellison also says that he would not buy Apple -- even though a lot of good technology and products remain at the company -- because he doesn't understand the company's strategy. "I have a soft spot in my heart for Apple," Ellison says, noting that founder Steve Jobs, now CEO of Next Software, is his best friend. "Steve feels like it's a lost child and it's very painful, and I'm not sure either of us know how to save it right now."

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