Microsoft's plans for a network computer may be too late to head off Oracle, which sources said last week would use its agreements with CGS and IBM to roll out a Minitel-type solution on a worldwide basis.
Microsoft chief executive officer Bill Gates quietly unveiled the company's own plans at its professional developers' conference in California two weeks ago, under the name Simply Interactive PC.
The announcement drew fire from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who accused Microsoft of reversing direction after it initially slammed the idea of the NC in September last year.
Gates said in a white paper, now posted on MS' WWW site, that he was excited about the potential of the Internet to reduce the cost and complexity of using a PC or network of PCs.
'Inexpensive PCs are coming,' he said. 'But prices have not fallen as fast as they might have because surprising growth in PC sales volumes has kept components in relatively short supply. You'll almost certainly see capable PCs priced well below $1,000.'
As reported in last week's PC Dealer, Gates' flirtation with NCs was viciously attacked by Ellison 'Microsoft locks you into its own API. We'll offer two operating systems to prove this is not a lock-in.'
Oracle is understood to be in negotiations with most major European and US telecoms companies to back the NC. And IBM is tipped to be a favoured candidate as an Internet provider. CGS implemented the Minitel scheme in France in the mid 1980s.
Jeremy Gittins, Microsoft UK Internet server product manager, said that Microsoft was driving a collaboration of hardware manufacturers from a software point of view. 'Oracle got very confused about our strategy,' he said.
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