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Oracle Feeling "Social" These Days

At Interop, Oracle execs pitched the company's efforts to bring social computing to the enterprise. They might be on to something.
At Interop, Oracle execs pitched the company's efforts to bring social computing to the enterprise. They might be on to something.Oracle is developing a number of new applications that look and feel like the Web 2.0, social networking services that are dominating the consumer world--MySpace, Facebook and the like.

The company's motivation?

There's a big market out there for vendors that can deliver business applications that people actually want to use.

The Gallup organization estimates that the total cost for businesses not engaging their employees through IT is $380 billion-with a "b".

There's a lot behind those numbers, but it's partly a measure of the productivity that's lost when enterprise apps just sit there like the Maytag repairman.

The problem: "Traditional enterprise applications look nothing like the intuitive, delightful environments we've become used to in our consumer lives," said Mark Woollen, VP for social CRM at Oracle, speaking Wednesday afternoon at Interop.

Oracle is looking to change that with a new line of apps--due "in the next 12 months," Woollen said-that feature a Web 2.0 feel and that integrate with consumer networks such as LinkedIn through Google's OpenSocial API.

One example of what Oracle is working on is a set of CRM tools called Oracle Sales Prospector, Sales Library, Sales Campaigns and Deal Manager.

The tools let users create their own mashups.

A salesman, for instance, might want to overlay the physical location of his most important customers over a Google map and then add telephone numbers for key contacts at those accounts. Equally key, users can publish the mashups, documents or templates they've created in these apps to their company's Intranet.

That means colleagues and partners can benefit.

Oracle is also creating versions of the apps that are built for mobile devices from the ground up. "Enabling enterprise apps for mobile has typically meant shrinking them down and handing out eyeglasses," said Woollen.

Oracle sounds like it has got the right idea about enterprise apps in the Web 2.0 world. The most important thing is that they've got to be used to be, uh, useful.

Whether it can deliver all of this in a timely fashion and under a coherent strategy is another question altogether. After all, Oracle is the company that brought us Fusion confusion.