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Oracle Goes for Microsoft’s Jugular

Oracle unveiled its new Internet strategy this month. Is this how Larry plans to top Bill?

Ever wish you could pass some of your company’s tech headaches on to someone else?

Oracle’s recent announcement that it is broadening its Internet services may provide an impetus for your business to do exactly that. The Dynamic Services Framework, which the software company unveiled this month, is designed to ease the linking of business services and applications across the Web.

Within this framework, Oracle will help businesses offer services like stock quote lookups and currency conversions on the Web. The service also lets businesses use software via the Web from application service providers (ASPs) such as Oracle’s own Business Online.

Bruce Bond, vice president of enterprise and supply chain management with the research firm Gartner Group, tells CFO.com that Oracle is thinking of the Internet as a platform that will eventually supercede today’s Microsoft- ruled desktop.

“Oracle is trying to rule the Internet,” says Bond, and the way to do that is to develop “the technologies and applications that make [Oracle] the heart of what businesses are running.” Oracle’s strategy is to deliver applications across the Internet with the expectation that eventually enterprises will go to one source to obtain all their Internet-based applications, in the same way that they now go to Microsoft to get desktop platform applications.

“That is how [Oracle] plans to rule the world,” Bond says.

Whether Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison bests his archrival, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, is still to be determined, but the company did have the good timing to announce the Dynamic Services Framework just a few days before it released its results for the second fiscal quarter ended Nov. 30.

During the quarter, Oracle earned $623 million, or $0.11 per share, on sales of $2.7 billion, beating Wall Street forecasts by a penny per share. In the year earlier quarter, Oracle earned $384 million, or $0.06 per share, on sales of $2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, on the same day that Oracle’s results were released, warned investors that its results for its Dec. 31, second fiscal quarter, will be short of Street forecasts.

It wouldn’t make sense to count Microsoft out based upon one poor quarter, but both Mister Softee and Oracle are betting heavily on the Internet. Microsoft’s Net strategy, called .Net, has been slow to take shape, and isn’t expected to be commercially available for another two years. That hasn’t escaped the notice of Oracle’s executives, who made a point of calling their offering .Now.

Oracle’s revenue growth was due in large part to a 66 percent increase in sales of its Web- enabled business management software. Meanwhile, revenue for its flagship database business grew merely 19 percent.

The spike in demand for Oracle’s Web software materialized after the company’s May release of the 11i E-Business integrated set of applications, which includes marketing, sales, procurement, supply chain management, accounting and human resources. On the one hand, the company is emphasizing Web services after the dot com sector has burned out, but this year has also seen traditional Old Economy companies meld the Web into their core business strategies, and this is a trend that Oracle hopes to capitalize upon.

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