Oracle's launch of new releases of its five application families was a surprisingly sober affair, designed to restate the vendor's May 2006 pledge to continue to enhance all of the software products.
The event took place Wednesday in the glamorous red and gold Hudson Theatre in the heart of New York's theater district, but there was no burlesque-style entertainment or amusing video skits. Instead, there was a series of straight-up presentations and product demonstrations from Oracle executives outlining the functionalities of the new versions.
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. EBS is Oracle's long-time applications suite, while the vendor picked up all the other ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) software through the acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel.
At the time of those acquisitions, 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 2006, Oracle committed publicly to continue to support and improve all the acquired applications under an initiative called "Applications Unlimited." Wednesday's 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, in an interview 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 last week.
Capabilities across the board included role-based analytics, business intelligence dashboards, master data management and XML-based reporting. Specific improvements included 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 noted that 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 where 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.
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 organization. "The sooner you're able to adopt and train up your IT, the better," he said.
Khan described Wednesday's 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 particularly for users running a number of different Oracle applications.
Khan was also pleased to hear Wookey confirm that the Fusion applications when they appear will be integrated with several earlier versions of each application family.