Ellison Still Defending the Network Computer

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. (01/28/2000) - Centralized computing power accessed by thin clients is a model that still makes sense, Oracle President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison said in a keynote address at Upside's Showcase event in Palm Springs.

Since applications can be hosted on Web servers, all that most users need is a cheap and simple Internet appliance, where the only software residing on it is a browser, he said. Oracle plans to soon spin off a company that will make US$199 computers for that purpose. The computers are expected to ship in volume by June.

When asked why the network computers that Ellison has championed the concept for haven't taken off in the past few years, he blamed Microsoft Corp.'s chairman. "You want to know why (network computers) didn't take off? Because Bill Gates called (former Digital Equipment Corp. CEO Robert) Palmer and told him he shouldn't make them," Ellison said.

Audience members expressed concern about the security of leaving their data on a server somewhere else on the Internet. Ellison replied, "If you think the data on your PC at home is more secure than in an Oracle database on the Internet, you are mistaken."

Ellison said it's easy to hack into people's computers at home, if they are connected to the Internet. Oracle's databases, on the other hand, have been rated by intelligence agencies as secure. "When was the last time you heard about an Oracle virus?" he asked the audience.

Audience members also expressed concern about Internet performance. What if users can't reach their data easily, when the Internet is sluggish? Ellison said users should get accounts with a couple of different ISPs (Internet service providers), so that if one is slow, users can access the Internet through the second account. "There are tons of paths to the Internet," he said.

Ellison also said Oracle is moving deeper into the application service provider (ASP) business. "I believe every software company is going to have to become their own ASP," he said. "We think that's our core business five years from now."

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