Larry Ellison and his network computer are ready to come back for a second round, the Oracle CEO said today in a keynote at CRM 99 in San Francisco.
Ellison, responding to a question in a freewheeling question-and-answer session, said Oracle is about to resurrect the name of Network Computer Inc., the company that suffered a high-profile failure to build a market for the NC, for a new spinoff that will build $199 desktop computers.
Unlike the first NCI, which was reincarnated as Liberate, a company that builds software for television Web access, the revived NCI will build machines meant to replace PCs. In that sense, the company would be more in line with the first NCI's original mission. It will run the Linux operating system, use an Intel processor, have 64 Mbytes of memory, and connect simply to the Internet. While it will be cheap, Ellison said, it's no longer intended to undersell traditional PCs. "It's not really about the price of a PC anymore," he said. "It's really just focused on making life easier." The machine, which Ellison says will run Web-based applications, including Oracle's own, will be aimed at both consumer and corporate audiences.
While the original NCI failed to deliver the type of machine that could displace Microsoft on the desktop, Ellison defended it as a success. The renamed NCI went public and, as Liberate, has a market cap of roughly $3 billion, Ellison said. "If every bad idea I have comes out to worth $3 billion, I hope they [the bad ideas] keep rolling out."