Microsoft and Oracle have taken their war to India, with Oracle signing partnerships for its network computer architecture with five major companies in the subcontinent.
The database giant has teamed up with the Indian subsidiaries of Digital, NCR, Optima, IBM and Price Waterhouse, just a week after Microsoft decided to locate its second software development centre in India.
With these moves, India is set to become one of the top battlefields for the warring software giants,as they push their rival network computing and Zero Administration for Windows initiatives.
The battle has spread to other market sectors too. Last month, Microsoft announced its plan to set up a computer training centre in Andhra Pradesh (state of India), the hottest destination for the Indian IT market. Immediately, Oracle Software India came out with its plan to start the Oracle School of Advanced Software in the state, to offer short term training on database management and ERP.
The battle, now going full steam, has complex underlying dymnamics. Scratch the surface and one realises that this is really a war of territorial rights, as the two companies move into each other's traditional territories - Microsoft expanding into enterprise back end applications with Exchange, Back Office and souped-up SQL Server, and Oracle into the user front end with its thin client approach.
With the concepts of network computing and collaborative computing gaining acceptance, the encroachment on both sides has been increasing. Now, a national thinktank on network computing has been announced by Oracle, aimed at catapulting India into the era of NCs. "Even a company as powerful as Microsoft cannot avoid networking for long and will have to caress the NC technology," said Derek Williams, senior vice president of Oracle.
To counter Oracle's move, Microsoft made presentations to various potential clients, saying Oracle's claims for the NC are "a myth".
"NCs do not connect like portable PCs and once you are disconnected from the network, you are left with a dumb terminal. Oracle's proposal is like telling everyone to ride a bus, and we believe organisations don't behave that way," said Orlando Ayala, vice president of intercontinental operations at Microsoft.
Microsoft recently launched a Diskless Remote Boot Machine (DRBM) that looks dangerously similar to the NC promoted by Oracle. But Ayala assured that this is not so. "The similarity stops with the hardware configuration. Beyond that the two systems are vastly different," he claimed.
While admitting that it is possible for Oracle to come up with a good NC operating system some time in the future, Ayala also points out that Microsoft would not be sitting idle during that time. "We would also be improving the Windows OS and we would always be able to offer a better solutions than one by Oracle," he said.
But Oracle is now in the final stages of setting up its national thinktank on network computing, which will be a tripartite body, representing government, academics and industry. The thinktank should lead to the development of strategies that will promote the wide scale adoption of NCs in India, create opportunities for developing NC applications in India's public, private and consumer sectors and tap the export potential of homegrown world class software for NCs, claims Anil Kaul, managing director of Oracle Software India.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning to launch its operating systems in about 18 Indian langauges using its 'enabling' concept. This software is expected to hit the Indian market in the next six months, Ayala said.
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