Hey Larry, you better rethink Oracle's grand plan for selling the NC

During downtime, he happened to see the most incredible piece of fantasy ever to air on
television: Oracle Corp.'s advertisement for its network computer.


Based on the ad, the cyberrodent figures NC must stand for "no clue."


Oracle's ad showed a kid in a housing project coming home to the friendly glow of a
network computer and participating on an equal footing with rich kids in a chat room,
which seems to be equated with higher learning on the World Wide Web.


At the same time, the kid can view streaming video of a whale breaching. Obviously,
this child must live in one of those really bad housing projects that have only T1
connections for each household instead of asynchronous transfer mode.


Talk about facing challenges in life. The furry one doubts that Oracle head honcho
Larry Ellison has an inkling what it's like to be part of the underclass these days. That
would explain how he expects a $300 information appliance to change it all.


Even though the Rat counts in hexadecimal, he still knows that $300 is a lot of money
to a lot of people.


Oracle is looking at retail disaster unless it does something clever, such as finding
Internet providers who'll give NCs away free with service contracts, as many pundits are
now positing.


Even that might not be enough to keep NCs from becoming white elephants. Unless there's
a Microsoft Windows server running somewhere in the background, you can't play Quake on an
NC.


The Rat is willing to bet that the performance would be pretty bad in a Citrix Systems
Inc. WinFrame session.


Meanwhile, there's talk that IBM Corp. will introduce a mobile NC and that other
companies will follow suit. The mobile NC would let users read and reply to e-mail while
disconnected, caching the replies until the NC could reconnect to a network.


Phew. The wired one wonders whether these geniuses have ever heard of personal digital
assistants--Apple Computer Inc.'s Newton and eMate, or the PalmPilot from 3Com Corp.?


For that matter, have they ever seen a Sprint Corp. personal communications services
phone, a digital pager or any other recently released consumer electronics?


The Newton, eMate and PalmPilot all have been handling e-mail for quite a while, and
they're all priced in the range of that alleged $300 sweet spot.


The Rat likes the Newton and the eMate, but he hasn't noticed them flying off
retailers' shelves either. That's a lesson in personal computing that no vendor seems to
get: People want home computers like the ones they have at work, so they can run the same
applications.


NCs aren't the computer at work yet, so they'll have a hard time making their way into
the homes of people who have the disposable income to pick them up.


The Rat is among them. He won't shop for anything this season that can't run the same
programs he uses at work. Like Quake II.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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