"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 November 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Oracular TV


In Douglas Coupland's latest

book, Microserfs, the central

character ponders aloud, "I

wonder if Bill Gates ever runs

into Larry Ellison and Steve

Jobs at the 7-Eleven." Since

Larry and Steve are unlikely to

head up to Redmond to get their

Super Big Gulps, we doubt it.

(Although finding themselves in

the same nachos line at Comdex

isn't out of the question.)


[Window Shopping]

These days, two people who

Ellison would probably less want

to see at the 7-11, unless it

were to be working behind the

counter, are Jim Clark and Marc

Andreessen, who have managed to

make a bundle by taking a bite

out of Ellison's Charleston

Chew. A couple of years ago,

Ellison confounded the analysts

and his shareholders by

maintaining that relational

databases, Oracle's raison

d'être, would someday evolve to

be the engines of commerce,

media, and gyrating icons on a

network that would link every

home in America.


[Into The Machine]

At the time, though, he wasn't

talking about the Internet, but

interactive television. The Web?

An interesting toy, maybe useful

as a diversion until the real

stuff shows up. Oracle poured

vats of money into ITV in an

effort to get it off the ground -

and they weren't alone. Apple,

Sun, and Microsoft were all

involved in the same myopic



[The Oracle Channel]

Why the mad dash to get your TV

"wired"? The ITV business model

calls for centralized server

farms - expensive machines and

even more expensive software,

bought and paid for by the

big money men in the

telecommunications business -

the types of characters who are

likely to appear on the cover of

Wired with their heads glued

onto Mel Gibson's body.


[Proof That You Can.]

Meanwhile, the story we've all

heard a thousand times before,

which sycophantic cybermagazines

have elevated to the status of a

creation myth, was unfolding.

While the heavies of the

software and communications

industries had their eyes on the

wrong ball, Netscape started

delivering on the ITV dream, not

on the broadband networks

envisioned by Oracle, Microsoft,

TCI, and the rest, but over the

ubiquitous 14.4 modem.


[In Three, One]

It sucked, but it was cheap.

Video on demand was replaced by

GIFs on demand, and the 500+ ITV

channels were replaced with

5000+ web servers, with more

every day. So what if the Web

set back interactive multimedia

at least ten years? Any sap with

a text editor and an ISP could

be the next MTV. Or, more

apropos, the next ROX.


Over the last 12 months, the last

of the ITV holdouts gave up,

save Oracle. Some, like Sun and

Microsoft, repurposed their

efforts to the Web early on.

Others folded up shop. We would

have liked to believe that

Oracle saw the future, and,

despite the realities of the Web

today, would have held onto its

crumbling ITV dream - and with

it, the company's hopes of an

endgame checkmate of Microsoft

and everyone else once and for



[Oracle Advertising]

But Oracle has decided to

"compete". Forsaking the high

ground of ITV, it's going to get

dirty with the rest of the kids

in the Web sandbox. Unveiling a

database-powered Web server

aimed directly at Netscape's

LiveWire server system, a Web

browser whose name,

PowerBrowser, is no doubt

designed to appeal to those who

nostalgically reminisce of 80's

IBM marketing slogans, and

support for both Java and Visual

Basic, Oracle means (Big)



[Piggy Bank]

The emperor has finally realized

that not only does he have no

clothes, but there's egg on his

face as well. The justifiable

reaction is to go and kick some

ass. But what, at first,

appeared to be a 180-degree

tactical reversal has emerged as

a slight variation from the

original game plan: a $500 "dumb

terminal" set-top box called the

Network Computer (NC) and its

similarly designed (and priced)

counterpart with an even more

dubious moniker, Web TV -

Oracle's answer to the Microsoft

Network. "It's like a television -

you plug it in...and when you

want to use it you switch it

on." Here we go again...


[Oracle Vs. The World]

Oracle believes in its server

technology to such an extent

that it chooses to use NCSA

1.4.2 in place of its "very

reliable and high performance

solution," the Oracle Web

Listener, for www.oracle.com. Of

course, that doesn't prevent it

from taking advantage of its

Oracle Web Agent, the CGI-based

gateway between a company's Web

server and the Oracle7 database

server. Though Oracle's Web site

may appear to be a collection of

static documents, it's good to

keep in mind, that, if they had

chosen to use Oracle technology

any place besides their

thrilling ticket-purchasing

demo, "CGI Programs Developers

no longer have to write code

using difficult and hard to

maintain languages such as C,

Perl, and Tcl...applications can

be developed using PL/SQL

alone..." Lest you become

suspicious, Oracle is quick to

remind you that "developers

who...would like to add the

non-standard blinking text

attribute can achieve this in

minutes." Thank you, Easter



[Flying CD-ROM]

Faithful Suck readers will recall

our earlier article on Netscape

vs. Microsoft. It appears that

the battle will heat up as a new

contender enters the ring. Our

vote? We're still betting on

Netscape. While the Web

represents a trophy on the wall

for Ellison, it's Netscape's

livelihood, and we don't think

that Netscape will easily

forfeit its competitive edge.

The recent defections and

head-chopping which took place

in Oracle's New Media division

mean that Oracle's going to have

to use brute force to succeed,

and don't forget that, even as

most of the commercial Web

servers can already tie into an

Oracle database, they're all

capable of talking to Sybase, as



[Oracle Alliance]

It's a safe assumption that the

previously announced deal in

which Netscape bundles Oracle

with LiveWire has taken a detour

straight down the shitter. As

for Microsoft, now that Gates

sees Ellison is in the mix,

Microsoft's efforts will

undoubtedly be redoubled. It's

going to be a bloodbath, and it

couldn't happen to a nicer bunch

of guys.

courtesy of Strep Throat