For those curious about what the next computing architecture will be after the Internet, believed by many to be on its way to replacing the client-server model, Oracle boss Larry Ellison has the answer - nothing.
Asked here last week to forecast the architecture that will take over in five or 10 years, Ellison first said that a decade is a long time in computing, but quickly added, "Let me say something provocative."
Up to that point, Ellison had been his usual opinionated self, but he hadn't said much that would be considered provocative, or even new. Although his physical presence was expected by the crowd gathered to hear his keynote address at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) conference, the chief executive officer and chairman didn't show up in person. Instead, he was beamed in from Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, California, and seen on four huge screens stationed at the front of the convention centre hall.
"There will be no big architecture change," Ellison said of the future of computing. The Internet will take hold as the model of a mature industry after which technology will continue to change, with faster microprocessors and other advances, but the search for the ideal method of accessing and sharing data will be over. "I don't believe there is anything after the Internet,'' he said. "It's the last big paradigm shift."
Extraordinarily short speech
Ellison expressed this view, and multiple others, during a question-and-answer session with the audience following what for him was an extraordinarily short keynote "speech" lasting all of 15 minutes and delivered in a casual manner that had him at one point pulling a troublesome ear piece out of his left ear and tossing it down his back to dangle there so that he could finish talking without being bothered.
"Technology!" he huffed as he removed the piece, which eventually had to be put back in so that he could hear questions from the audience, some of whom had pointed queries related to the highly-touted upcoming Oracle Business Applications Release 11i.
The first question came from someone wondering when Oracle will stop adding functions to 11i. The questioner said he has been waiting for various features and not just the Internet capabilities that Oracle has emphasised in its marketing campaign.
"I'm losing credibility with my customers," the man said. "I'd really appreciate a [release] date I can count on."
Ellison eventually said he believes the applications will be released in February, but he first defended the delay. The updated and vastly changed applications suite was due out late this year, but has been pushed back to the first quarter of next year because of technological snags. There was also the problem that as the original release date drew near it became clear that customers would wait to buy the new applications suite, originally due out when many companies are freezing purchases because of Y2K concerns.
Ellison actually provided more detail about the target date and about the reasons for the delay, giving a specific month, if not a day, as opposed to the nebulous "first quarter" other executives have given here, and also admitted that there were glitches in the development, as well as year 2000 timing issues.
"As we got closer to the Y2K boundary, we thought it was silly to release it," he said, adding that deciding to delay a release is not an easy option but the key is to decide what is the best for the greatest number of users.
Although he answered every question posed to him during the hour-long query session, Ellison was most anima-ted when talking about the Internet, his enduring theme for the last several years (apart from bashing rival Microsoft).
"The Internet is so low-cost you can put all of your employees online, all of your suppliers online," he said.
The current most-used client-server model is too complex and puts on desktops far more software than typical business users need, Ellison said. Until recently, he didn't use Oracle applications, but has begun to do so since his company has moved toward having the Internet as its internal architecture.