Ellison to launch NC Firm (again)

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 will introduce a new, independent company today in the US called The New Internet Computer. Funded by Ellison, the firm will sell a $US199 "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 US 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 (NCI), an Oracle subsidiary with a mission to both evangelise 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, switched its focus to software for interactive television, and launched a successful IPO.

At a press conference scheduled for today in the US, 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.

NICC wouldn't comment last week 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.

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