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Larry Ellison, the combative boss of Oracle, struck a more conciliatory tone yesterday talking about the future roadmap for PeopleSoft products and what support customers could expect now he has bought the company. Oracle has kept 90 per cent of Peoplesoft's engineering and development staff so product lines will continue to be "enhanced".

Ellison said: "By retaining over 90 per cent of PeopleSoft's development and support organisation we can deliver on our commitment to all of our applications customers."

Oracle paid $10.3bn for PeopleSoft after a long and ill-tempered takeover battle. Observers are concerned that it will be difficult to merge two companies with such different cultures.

Oracle is seen as an aggressive firm while PeopleSoft had a gentler reputation. Ellison refuted this analysis, pointing out that PeopleSoft had to be aggressive to survive in the market, and that Craig Conway, ex-Peoplesoft boss, had been one of Oracle's "most aggressive executives ever" when he worked under Ellison.

PeopleSoft product lines will be supported up until 2013, and JD Edwards products will also be supported til the same deadline - longer than the one promised by PeopleSoft. PeopleSoft bought JD Edwards days before Oracle launched its takeover bid.

Project Fusion is the next stage - to bring together Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards product lines. This will bring all three product sets together using Java and HTML standards to make the new software easy to integrate into other systems. Developers will continue to work on PeopleSoft 8.9 and then the next upgrade 9.0.

John Wookey, VP of application development at Oracle and the man overseeing future joint developments, claimed: "Oracle and PeopleSoft are truly better together. The new combined organisation, comprised of the best talent in the enterprise software industry, will provide customers with greater innovation, support and expertise across industries."

Talking about Project Fusion, Wookey gushed: "The new architecture and the results companies will achieve will be truly revolutionary, but the path to the new successor product line will be evolutionary."

Wookey provided a roadmap of future releases: PeopleSoft 8.9 will be released in 2005; version 9.0 and JD Edwards' EnterpriseOne 8.12 will both be released in 2006. The start of 2006 will also see the first components of Project Fusion - data hubs and transaction bases. The first Project Fusion applications should be ready in 2007 and a full suite by 2008.

Oracle hopes to keep 95 per cent of PeopleSoft customers, partly be promising that maintenance and support costs will be at or below current levels. Oracle will also publish a standard price list. Wall Street analysts get their own briefing on the financial implications of the deal 26 January.

More details on the Oracle website here. ®

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