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Oracle turns into Franklin Mint

Limited edition NICs for sale

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This week someone bid £100,000 for a handbag once owned by Britain's increasingly batty former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. But it was for charity, so that's all right, then.

But into whose pocket will the money go for the first ten Oracle NIC Internet Appliances to roll off the production lines? These are to be sold complete with letters of authentication, through Amazon.com's new auction service. So what's this: Oracle is now the Franklin Mint of the computer industry?

No doubt the Amazon auction will succeed in lathering up the hype for the NIC, a cheap and cheerless device. But it does seems a little peculiar to apply the marketing tactics of luxury/ scarcity - squeeze the best price through a limited edition, instant collectors' item.

Bid for a box, if you must, at http://s1.amazon.com/exec/varzea/ts/exchange-glance/. Or not - this URL, supplied by Oracle, throws up an error message.

It's been a long time coming for the NIC, the roots of which still appear to lie in an off-the-cuff conference speech made in 1995 by Larry Ellison, the increasingly crazed megalomaniac Oracle chairman, who is, after the departure of loyal gofer Ray Lane, adding the roles of president and CEO to his portfolio.

The NIC - as in New Internet Company - is designed for email use and "plug and play Internet access". The box is pitched at the likes of Netpliance iOpener and the Gateway/AOL thing and will retail for $199+$129 for an "optional monitor". So that's $328, then. Oracle says this makes the NIC currently the cheapest consumer Internet appliance on the market. Not that there is too much competition. ®

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