Oracle's Ellison considers netbook market foray

SAN FRANCISCO/BOSTON (Reuters) - Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison is considering getting into the business of selling low-cost laptop computers, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the technology business.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison makes a point as he delivers his keynote address at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, California September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Ellison said on Tuesday that he is looking at entering the market for so-called netbook computers after his software company completes its planned $7 billion (4.2 billion pound) purchase of computer maker Sun Microsystems.

Sun also controls the Java computer language, which Ellison told programmers at a Java users’ conference could be employed to run netbooks.

“I don’t see why some of those devices shouldn’t come from Sun,” said Ellison, who runs the world’s third-largest software maker. “There will be computers that are fundamentally based on Java.”

That would put Oracle in competition with companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Acer, which either make netbooks or develop software for them.

The netbook phenomenon took off in 2008 to the tune of 11.7 million units, led by companies such as Acer and Asustek Computer that were quick into the market. Nearly every PC vendor offers them these days.

Analysts forecast 20 million to 30 million netbooks will be sold this year, making up an ever larger part of overall laptop sales and marking one of few tech sectors still experiencing robust revenue growth.

Ellison made the comments during his first public speech since Oracle announced plans to buy Sun.

Although netbooks are relatively new, Ellison deserves some credit for their rise.

More then a decade ago he introduced a lightweight alternative to the PC known as the Network Computer, which was built primarily to connect to the Internet. The machines, which competed with ones running on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, failed to take off after their launch in 1996.

Reporting by Clare Baldwin in San Francisco and Jim Finkle in Boston; Editing by Derek Caney and Gerald E. McCormick