Sparks Fly at Showcase Wrap-up

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. (01/31/2000) - Product shoot-outs, some pointed remarks by Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison, and innovative Web services were among the highlights of the second and last day of the Showcase 2000 conference here last week.

Virtual storage, the new term for saving files, programs, and other information on the Web, has become a hot area lately as dozens of companies offer the service for free. Showcase featured three of the leaders: X:drive, Driveway, and, and let the audience choose their favorite.

The hands-down winner, measured by applause, was, which also announced it is significantly expanding its storage allotments.

All the virtual storage companies have limited how much free storage space they offer, typically to 100MB. Additional space is available for a monthly fee. But i-drive now offers an "Infinite Space" feature that sets no limits on how much Web content you can save online.

The company also announced relationships with several Web sites that embed its technology so you don't have to go to the i-drive site to store online. One i-drive partner is the popular music site, which offers more than 200,000 songs available for download.

"Go ahead and collect them all," said Jeff Bonforte, i-drive chief executive officer.

Driveway touted its relationship with Microsoft (it's an integrated part of the Microsoft Office 2000 CD-ROM), while X:Drive underscored its top ranking among Internet storage providers by PC Data Online.

Bill Gates Killed the Network Computer

Oracle's hard-charging CEO Larry Ellison gave the closing address, primarily a recap of his oft-repeated belief that the PC is an overly complicated, unreliable system that will be usurped by network computers (NCs) and other Internet-connected devices.

Ellison handled a barrage of skeptical and sometimes hostile questions from PC adherents in the audience with wit and reasoned arguments. But when someone framed Ellison's network computer initiative, begun four years ago, as a failure and asked what went wrong, the CEO exploded.

"NCI (Network Computer Inc. -- an Oracle spin-off to manufacture network computers) didn't take off because Bill Gates told Bob Palmer at Digital not to make them!" Ellison thundered. Digital, under then-CEO Robert Palmer, had a strong partnership with Oracle and was supposedly on tap to manufacture network computers for NCI. But Digital also had a strong relationship with Microsoft and, as a staunch supporter of Windows NT, depended more on Microsoft than on Oracle.

No one from Microsoft was on hand to confirm or dispute Ellison's account. When someone mentioned there was press in the audience, Ellison shouted: "Write it down!" and added, "See you in court," presumably referring to Microsoft.

Oracle plans to formally unveil another NC company in a few weeks called The New Internet Computer Company. Its first offering will be a US$199 network computer, scheduled to ship in March.eBoodle? Yep, That's the Name With electronic commerce all the rage, it was no surprise to see many business-to-business and business-to-consumer Internet services at Showcase.

One of the more interesting ones is a "Personal Shopping Assistant" called eBoodle.

"Shopping online today is a pretty lousy experience," declared Todd Lowdon, vice president of business development at His company's service aims to make it easier by recording transactions, combining comparison-shopping operations, and automating forms you must fill out for purchases.

The eBoodle bar is a downloadable plug-in that displays at the bottom of your PC screen. A kind of search engine for online shoppers, the eBoodle bar is designed to ease online shopping by conducting feature and price comparisons across more than 25,000 Web sites. The vendor also offers a rebate program for buying via eBoodle. The program stores your confirmation purchase page so it's readily available online if you have any problems with delivery.

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