Oracle pushes marketing buttons

Oracle Corp. is using the inaugural US version of its Oracle AppsWorld conference largely to hammer home already-developed marketing messages about its business applications, not to break new ground on technology, according to users and analysts attending the event here.

Oracle Tuesday announced that it plans to offer 160 new business service features through its application hosting operation. The software vendor also highlighted its E-Business Hub, a suite of products that Oracle said will let different companies collaborate on projects such as product development.

But during keynote speeches and sessions here, Oracle executives have been busy reiterating earlier marketing messages. For example, they urged users to implement all-Oracle and touted the company's claim that it saved US$1 billion in annual expenses by installing its own suite of Internet-based applications. Oracle is also emphasizing its push to offer software on an application service provider (ASP) basis.

Those messages are getting mixed reviews from some users. For example, Jeffrey Yefsky, a financial systems analyst at Sony Electronics Inc., said he thinks the consumer electronics company could save big amounts of money over the next two years by installing a set of e-business applications like the ones made by Oracle.

The Internet-enabled software could boost supply-chain efficiencies dramatically and reduce the amount of time that workers spend procuring materials and supplies, Yefsky said. And an all-Oracle implementation would make it easier to consolidate as much information about transactions as possible on a single screen, he added.

On the other hand, Yefsky said he would have little interest in using the kind of ASP approach that Oracle is pushing. "I don't want outsiders looking in at my information and me not having ultimate control over it," he said.

Steven Wright, a member of an application implementation team at Ingersoll-Rand Corp., said the manufacturing conglomerate is installing Oracle's applications throughout its far-flung operations. Standardizing on the software will simplify Ingersoll-Rand's corporate IT infrastructure and make it easier to shift employees from one unit to another, he said.

Supporting a single set of applications should also be less complicated, Wright said, adding that Ingersoll-Rand should replace most of its legacy systems with the Oracle applications within the next five to seven years.

But there's less interest in going all-Oracle at Starbucks Coffee Co. "We need to give everyone a shot," said Arnold Alger, director of business planning and analysis at the coffee seller.

Starbucks does use Oracle's general ledger and business intelligence software to help it do market planning, and Alger said buying software from one vendor could provide cost efficiencies. But Starbucks buys applications based on its business needs, not on the identity of the vendor, he added.

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