Oracle has confirmed plans to produce a set of personal productivity applications similar to a cutdown version of Microsoft Office.
The software, codenamed Hattrick, will run on the NC (Network Computer), but only under a proprietary operating system yet to be created by Oracle.
Ray Lane, the company's president and chief operations officer, confirmed that Hattrick, expected to ship in February, will be capable of word processing, spreadsheets and graphics presentations "to a reasonably high standard".
Email will be available through Oracle's existing InterOffice product.
"It is basically Microsoft Office, but in a fraction of the code," said Lane. "It produces the fundamental capabilities, so you can type text, insert, delete, spell check and so on, but you can't pick the colour of the underlined word or that kind of thing. If you're a publisher you'll want to use Microsoft Office, but anybody who wants to type a memo could use this."
Lane conceded that Hattrick will only run on the "Oracle-specific" operating system and not all Network Computers or thin clients. The suite will probably be written entirely in Java, although he couldn't confirm this.
Hattrick will be text-file compatible with existing office suites, according to Lane. However, he was unable to say whether the spreadsheet feature would be compatible with programs such as Excel.
Corel is rewriting its PerfectOffice suite in Java. A preview of the product, codenamed Joffice, was posted on the company's Web site last week. The software is expected to be released by the end of the year.
Oliver Roll, Office product manager at Microsoft, dismissed the idea of rewriting office suites in Java as irrelevant. Java is just another programming language, he said.
Roll also claimed customers do not want suites with cut down functionality: "People today could use Wordpad in Windows 95 if they wanted, but they don't."
- additional reporting by Ian Stobie.
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