PC Dealer sits with Ray Lane, Oracle chief operating officer, and by Jose Delameilleure. discusses the software vendor's future plans.
Why are you still at Oracle? You could have been CEO of any company.
I enjoy working at Oracle. I can be number one at what I do best. I know how to sell, consult for customers and give them a good experience, but I really don't know how to develop products. Larry (Ellison, Oracle CEO) says: 'I am the head of development, you are the head of operations - we are partners.' He does not tell me what to do in operations and I don't tell him what to do in development.
Do you see yourself as a number two?
Yes. I have a lot of respect for him (Ellison). I often ask his advice.
I learn a lot from him and enjoy working with him.
Also, Oracle's potential is tremendous. There aren't a lot of software companies today. I like working in large companies. And then to be honest, I own a significant portion and if the shares rise 10 points, that's more money than I could get at another company.
Larry said he thinks the world of you. How do you feel about him?
The same. He's a successful entrepreneur, but he's also a developer, a programmer and a technical person. I could not work for somebody I couldn't learn from. It's a great partnership.
Everyone is going strong on applications except Oracle. Why?
I wish I knew. We should be growing as fast. There's a combination of reasons - one is we're not purely focused on it. It's only 20 per cent of our business, but it could be more. It hasn't had enough of Larry's attention, although it has been getting more. It's now his number one priority, so I think it will change rapidly.
Also, we need to train our salesforce better on selling the advantages of our products. We have been essentially replicating what SAP does. SAP came to the US in 1992/93 with a client-server product. We also had one.
But when it came to the US, it had all of the European localisation done.
We didn't. We have been working to bring our product to Europe, which is difficult, what with 20 different languages. We have been spending a lot of money to build a global product that can compete with SAP.
Do you believe Bill Gates when he says Microsoft isn't going into apps?
No. Why wouldn't he? He's going into every other business.
I don't know if he will be going into enterprise apps like financials or manufacturing. But he will find out it's a high-growth market.
Do you intend to buy in the ERP market, or build?
Build. We have built, we've partnered and have bought. But you measure in the amount of R&D we do, our growth strategy is 80 per cent build.
We also partner - i2 is a strategic partner because it adds capability that makes our manufacturing prod- uct stronger. We partner with IMI, because it does a better job in the order management, pricing, trade accounting part of the business. There are times where it makes sense to partner, but for the predominant part of our products, it's best to build.
Do analysts know what they are talking about when they say the NC is not selling as expected?
Yes. The NC has very little relevance to our revenue. We focus on network computing.
As long as the PC is as expensive as it is now, it will be replaced by other appliances. Within a few years, 75 per cent of desktops will not be PCs. They may be PCs with a browser, but not using the disk drive.
That's the same as an NC.
It will be interesting to see whether customers leave Windows and adopt Java and a browser. That will be our major challenge. But it's not NCs versus PCs.
NCI (Oracle's NC subsidiary) is not going the way you want it to, is it?
No, but it will still be successful. Our expectation is that by the end of the year, NCI will go public and will be a successful company. It will be based on selling NCs to telephone companies to be repackaged for the home.
Cable & Wireless has standardised on the NCI platform for delivering home services and we'll have more announcements in the cable industry in the next month.
So we expect the cable broad-cast industry to standardise on the NCI product. We expected corporates to put NCs in to replace dumb terminals and then replace NT. But NCI is selling to the consumer market and IBM and Sun to the corporates. It's amazing what NC has done to stop NT on the desktop.
What's your strategy for low-end databases? When are you buying Pervasive Software?
Why would we? We have a low-end database that is compatible with Oracle 8. It runs on Windows, on Windows CE, on the Palmpilot, on Psion - it's called Oracle Lite.
What is the tools strategy?
We are happy with our tools right now. Designer 2 is under production now. We are having great success with full 100 per cent generation of code. Discoverer is a query tool that is growing over 100 per cent. The trouble with tools is that it is difficult to get growth.
Is it possible to sell tools as a database company? Sybase and Informix have trouble with it.
The problem is not selling tools, it's making money out of tools. Powersoft did it. It screwed up the business by saying we will sell developer licences and give away runtime. That's silly, but we had to go along with it because our competitors did it.
What about Sybase and Informix?
I like Sybase's management - they're good people. But I don't think the companies will make it. You have a choice of Microsoft, Oracle or IBM.
Why would you choose Informix or Sybase? They become irrelevant as number four or five - like Ingres now.
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