Oracle has leapt at last into the online billing software market in the wake of Netscape, IBM and Microsoft. Oracle's product, Tribeca, was unveiled last week and will ship next June. But although Oracle was one of the first software houses to announce plans to enter this sector, it has been leapfrogged by several rivals, including Microsoft.
Oracle's product will also face powerful competition from Sun and AOL, both of which will sell Netscape's own month-old billing software following their three-way alliance.
An Oracle spokesman said the company was "not fazed" by all this competition, since "we have the presence in the big sites, and our product is based on the robust technology of our Oracle8 database".
But some analysts believe that rivals are better placed than Oracle to sell their products to the core user base of financial institutions, utilities and other service companies with heavy billing activities.
Assuming AOL retains the Netscape product, the 14 million users of its online service could be a big lure for billing companies. And IBM has tied in various key financial organisations to its Integrion venture for electronic bills and payments, while Microsoft is working with Citibank and First Data on its billing software.
The other advantage that AOL/Netscape and Microsoft will have are their Web portal sites. Banks and others hope to use Internet billing software to offer customers a single point to make payments to multiple suppliers.
Oracle's Tribeca, now called Internet Bill and Pay 1.0, is in pilot testing now, with Scandinavian phone operator Telia the first firm customer. It comes with a restricted use licence for Oracle8, the billing cartridge, which integrates with the database, Oracle Application Server and the Report Server tools.
Pricing will be announced early next year.
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