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Audience smack down

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OpenWorld Larry Ellison got testy with customers during his OpenWorld keynote open mic session Wednesday, as he fielded question after question from those confused by Oracle Fusion and angry at paying too much for his software.

Oracle's chief executive verbally took down one delegate for haplessly suggesting money spent on Microsoft Office finds its way into the coffers of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight disease and poverty.

And, he told another customer who'd ripped chips from his server just to pay his Oracle license to basically put up and shut up, because things ain't getting cheaper.

All that within an hour of the celebrity CEO being introduced by a genuine celebrity - Billy Joel. "I want to bring up the real star of the show," the baseball-capped Joel told blinking and clapping OpenWorld attendees.

It was all a million miles away from the carefully cultivated PR image of papa Ellison, the doting CEO who on Sunday night eschewed the teleprompt for a clutch of A4 notes and donned reading glasses to recount stories from the early days of Oracle, at the Moscone Centre.

Three days later, though, with Oracle spinning the same messages again and again on Fusion and Application Integration Architecture (AIA) but not giving anything away whatsoever on features or launch dates, delegates wanted some answers.

Only minutes before, Oracle's aggressive chief executive had given audience members the vaguest of product commitments.

Out of a family of more than 300 applications spanning seven suites and with 18 products in middleware, Oracle will during the first half of 2008 - two years after it started talking about Fusion - ship three applications. All are in CRM.

Those applications are called sales prospector, sales references and sales tools, which Ellison described as "business intelligence for the sales person" and - it transpired - were those shown during senior vice president of CRM OnDemand Anthony Lye's demonstration the previous day given, rather suspiciously, minus any name or ship dates.

Biting his lip and "trying to be conservative", Ellison told OpenWorld: "I fantasize about it coming out even earlier in the first half [of 2008]."

There was no word on availability for Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g or JDeveloper 11g.

Those most concerned over the lack of facts appeared to be customers running PeopleSoft, Siebel, or JDE - companies bought by Oracle during its three-year spending spree.

Asked when Oracle will produce Fusion applications for PeopleSoft and specifically PeopleSoft HR, Ellison said the applications Lye had demonstrated would work with PeopleSoft ERP and there were "no new" product dates to announce.

What's the roadmap for the second-generation of Fusion applications? "The first generation of Fusion is coming in 2008. We don't know what the second generation of Fusion is. I'm not sure what you mean," Ellison replied.

Which databases will Fusion support? Turns out, that'll depend on the application and your line of business. If you are in financial services and you use Microsoft's SQL Server, for example, you're shit out of luck. If you're on IBM's DB2, you might be OK - but that depends on whether IBM also buys into Fusion.

"You have to talk about specific applications," Ellison said. "Fusion in financial services supports DB2 and Oracle. We made a decision... We are clearly going to support Oracle. We are going to support IBM. We've asked IBM to put certain security features in DB2 that make it easier to support DB2 and we are in the middle of those negotiations."

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