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November 14, 1997



The network computer versus personal computer battle
has just spilled into India. Dispatches from the frontline.

This week, Oracle, the chief evangelist for 'network computers', teamed up with the Indian subsidiaries of Digital, NCR, Optima, IBM and Price Waterhouse to take on Microsoft's network software.

Oracle has been leading a group of high-profile information technology companies in promoting the idea of a substantially cheaper NC as an alternative to the PC, Microsoft's kingdom. The objective is apparent: if you
Qualcomm plant
SGI goes to Bollywood
High porting costs
can't beat Redmond at the game, change the game!

But Microsoft is a tough competitor: The cliché is as true as clichés generally are. To break Oracle's concept, Microsoft has introduced its 'zero administrative initiative for Windows', or ZAW, to enhance PC use.

But Oracle Senior Vice-President Derek William is emphatic. "Even a company as powerful as Microsoft cannot avoid networking for long and will have to caress the network computing technology."

Countries like India, where owning a PC is still expensive, are obvious targets for the NC band. Two days ago the Oracle Open World was launched in New Delhi. It will aim to spearhead the NC idea in the country. Plans to open a 'national centre for network computing' and a network computing laboratory were also announced.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, in a separate event, made presentations to various potential clients. They called Oracle's claims of NC being a "well-defined, universal and open solution offering lower cost of ownership", a "myth" and a "bad proposal".

Microsoft's Orlando Ayala, vice-president (intercontinental operations), claimed the total cost of ownership of a computer is about $33,000 per three years, which contains 46 per cent cost associated with support to the end-user and downtime.

"We are in total agreement with our competitors that this cost has to be brought down. However, we are in total disagreement with Oracle's and IBM's proposals to solve the problem. Their proposal is to put everything in the centre (server) and feed the information to everybody through dumb terminal (clients) and the concept is termed NC,'' Ayala charged.

In an organisation not everyone needs a $ 5,000 computer (average PC) and also not everyone needs a $ 500 computer (an NC), Ayala pointed out. This is precisely the reason why "we believe that the proposals from Oracle and IBM will just not work'', he said.

"It is a bad proposal. We don't believe that organisations behave in a dimension of a very restrictive end-user in all places. Human beings, by definition, want more flexibility. An NC does not connect to a portable PC and once you are disconnected from the network your are left with a dumb terminal. Oracle's proposal is like telling everyone to ride a bus and we believe organisations don't behave that way. It is like going back to the dinosaur age,'' Ayala said.

He elaborated on Microsoft's concept of manageability through the umbrella of ZAW and said ZAW gives guidance to customers on how to mix and match users with different type of clients, all running Windows applications.

Back at the Delhi launch, Oracle India Chairman and Managing Director Anil Kaul, said "It is important to come out with specific network computing solutions for industries like banking, transportation, telecom and energy."

He said "The advantage of network computing lies in lower maintenance costs and removal of complexity. Maintenance costs go down by 100-200 per cent over a period of five years," Kaul claimed.

Silicon Graphics India Chief Ashok Desai said network computing requires several components to take off which cannot be done single-handedly. "We need to work together to develop a multiple focus on voice, data, video and multimedia."

Oracle has chalked out a four-pronged strategy to peg up the network computing business in India:

  • Promoted adoption of network computing in the country;
  • Create opportunities for the development of network computing in the public and private sectors;
  • Tap export potential of network computing software; and
  • Develop ties among government, industry and academic institutions in the IT segment.

    - Compiled from the Indian media

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