Analysis: Intelligent search engines soon to be standard on NET

Oracle's vice-president of server marketing, Mark Jarvis, says intelligent search engines will soon be standard fare on the Internet, but he is coy about whether Oracle will be providing a service.

Jarvis' list of imminent/arriving Internet AI goodies includes ''dynamic content'', in which Web sites will change for individual users. Greetings will be personal, and the content will alter according to what has already been seen: ''totally customised experiences''. (If you want to see it now, he says, try CNN Interactive.)

There will also be many Spider services. People with particular interests will register with their favourite specialist arachnids, which will crawl round the Web keeping an eye out for the data specified and will email page addresses that match.

Oracle already has a tool called Context, a text-management system that can "understand" English. It can thus search on themes, even to the extent of recognising that an article is about dining out even if it does not contain the word restaurants. It can also summarise an article to any length.

Jarvis, in New Zealand for the local launch of Oracle's Universal Server (''which can store and deliver any kind of data to any kind of computer on a network''), also had much to say about Oracle's upcoming foray with the network computer, the NC.

Oracle's NC is a simple, 8Mb, diskless machine that uses a TV set as a screen, will access its application software from the Net, and will use the Net for storage. Jarvis says it will be the machine of first choice in corporate networks, in the consumer market, and in education. But he says it will not replace the PC; it will complement it.

It will also complement Oracle. ''The NC will help us sell a lot more servers.''

Asked if he really expects people to trust a faceless network with their private word processing and spreadsheets, Jarvis says they already trust it with their email, that Oracle has never lost a file in all its 20 years, and that Oracle's Net security is better than that of all but the most security-conscious PC user.

The NC OS developed by Oracle consumes an astonishing 300Kb of memory; it has a microkernel that speaks http; it runs Java; and its API is open and available, so anyone can develop to it.

Oracle's first NC is based on the ARM chip - the prototype is essentially an Acorn RISC PC. It will arrive in September. An Intel-based NC will follow later in the year.

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