SAN FRANCISCO (05/05/2000) - Some habits die hard. For Larry Ellison, starting companies that build network computers is one of them.
The colorful chairman and chief executive officer of Oracle Corp. will introduce a new, independent company on Monday called The New Internet Computer Co. Funded by Ellison, the firm will sell a US$199 "non-PC" device that has no hard drive, doesn't run Windows, and provides access to e-mail and the Internet.
NICC will be run by CEO Gina Smith, a technology journalist and something of a personality on U.S. television and radio. The company's first product will be available initially only to educators.
If Ellison's plan sounds familiar, it should. Back in 1995, the Oracle chief was one of the original advocates of the network computer, a device he predicted would displace PCs by offering a more affordable and efficient way for accessing the Internet.
Ellison created Network Computer Inc. (NCI), an Oracle subsidiary with a mission to both evangelize the concept and provide software specifications for the devices. The network computer never took off as Ellison and other advocates had predicted and in 1999 NCI changed its name to Liberate Technologies Inc., switched its focus to software for interactive television, and launched a successful IPO (initial public offering). [See "Oracle's NCI Reinvents Itself," May 19, 1999.]At a press conference scheduled for Monday, Ellison and Smith will provide details of NICC's first product, to be called NIC (New Internet Computer), and talk about why they expect things will be different from the first time around.
Earlier in the day, Ellison will join retired U.S. General Colin Powell, chairman of a nonprofit organization called America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth, to announce that NICC will donate more than 1,000 NICs to 23 schools in Dallas, Texas. The donation is part of a philanthropic program at Oracle called Promise, which places computers in the U.S. schools.
NICC wouldn't comment today on whether the company expects education to be a big market for the NIC or about any other details of its product. The first NICs are in the process of being installed at the Dallas schools, and the NICs are currently available only for educators, a NICC spokeswoman said.
Monday's press conference with Ellison and Smith is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CDT at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. The event is due to be broadcast live at Oracle's eBusiness Network Web site at http://www.oracle.com/ebusinessnetwork/.
NICC, in San Francisco, can be contacted at +1-415-786-8604. The company plans to launch its Web site on Monday at http://www.thinknic.com/. Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at +1-650-506-7000 or via the Internet at http://www.oracle.com/.