Oracle will this week stun the industry by unveiling Network Computers powered by Intel chips.
Plans to develop Intel-based NCs will be announced by Oracle's outspoken chief executive, Larry Ellison, in a keynote speech to be given at the Oracle Open World annual conference in San Francisco.
The move will come as a huge set back to the other major supporters of the NC Reference Profile, Apple, IBM, Netscape and Sun. The NC was seen as an attempt to offer a genuine alternative to Wintel on the desktop.
As PC Week went to press, it wasn't clear which type of Intel processor Oracle would be using. However, it seems likely that it will plump for cut-down Pentium class microprocessors. Prototypes of the NCs, which will be produced by Oracle's hardware and software subsidiary, Network Computer Inc, were due to go on display at this week's conference. The machines are expected to ship in the first half of 1997.
Ellison hinted at his endorsement of Intel and the PC industry at the IDC European Forum at the end of September. There he predicted that the mass NC market would be using cut-down PC hardware without hard disks and floppy drives.
It is believed that Oracle's decision to go 'Intel Inside' follows meetings between Ellison and Intel chief Andy Grove.
Donald De Palma, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said Oracle's move is a worry to other NC chip suppliers such as Acorn and Sun, as they will now find it difficult to compete. "There are millions of Intel chips out there," noted De Palma. "The bulk of Sun's revenue stream comes from hardware. At the moment, no revenue is coming in from JavaSoft."
Sun has invested time, effort and money in developing chips for NC devices.
These dedicated Java chips, which include PicoJava, will be used by third party NC manufacturers as well as Sun. But according to DePalma, Sun does not have the distribution channels in place to compete effectively with Intel.
With this week's announcement, Ellison is going back on his original principles of a Network Computer - a sub $500 thin-client that would offer customers a real alternative to Windows and Intel. 'Intel Inside' may be a brand name with enough clout to sell lots of network computers, but it is hardly an alternative.
Oracle: bundling Netscape Navigator
Oracle has confirmed it is to bundle Netscape Navigator with Intel-based NCs produced by its Network Computer Inc subsidiary.
In a joint announcement between the two companies, Netscape also said that Oracle enterprise and workgroup database servers will be the only database bundled with its Netscape Commercial Applications. These applications include Netscape Merchant System, Netscape Publishing System and Netscape Community System.
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