* Oracle’s biggest launch ever on track for 2010
* Previewers say interface is slick, easy to use
* New ‘Fusion Apps’ could give Oracle edge over SAP (Adds comments from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, SAP spokesman)
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Oracle Corp ORCL.O showed off on Wednesday a new line of software it plans to introduce next year, demonstrating slick features that analysts say make it more compelling than rival products from SAP AG SAPG.DE.
Larry Ellison, the billionaire CEO of the world’s No. 2 maker of business software, told some 10,000 customers attending a user conference in San Francisco that Oracle will initially offer its “Fusion Apps” for managing accounting, human resources, sales and marketing, as well as other key business functions.
The product’s launch will be one of the most closely watched in Oracle’s 32-year history as Ellison has essentially staked his reputation on Fusion Apps, which Oracle has spent five years and billions of dollars developing. It’s at the heart of Ellison’s efforts to grab customers from SAP, the only company that sells more business management software.
Ellison told customers that Fusion Apps will easily integrate with SAP’s software, which could allow Oracle to win orders at companies that currently use SAP’s products but do not want to go through the costly process of converting all their systems over to Oracle’s.
That strategy could give Oracle a foot in the door, exposing corporations to a product that is considered more modern than what either Oracle or SAP currently offer.
One key differentiator between Fusion Apps and the products available from SAP and Oracle is that it is easier to customize and integrate with other software, allowing businesses to save millions of dollars in consulting costs, said Ravi Kumar, a vice president at Infosys Technologies Ltd INFY.BO, which has been testing early versions of the software for six months.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL FACE
Another important advance is the user interface, which looks more like a screen from Google Inc's GOOG.O GMail than a traditional business software application, he said.
“It is very user friendly. Very intuitive. People will be able to drag and drop,” Kumar said. “Fusion will be much more user friendly compared to SAP.”
SAP spokesman Saswato Das said that his company’s offering, Business Suite 7, was the most comprehensive and flexible business management software product on the market.
He said that since Oracle has yet to start selling Fusion, there is no evidence it works as well as Ellison claims.
“Oracle has been talking about Fusion for a long time. Our suite is available now,” Das said.
Germany’s SAP and California-based Oracle control virtually all of the market for software that large corporations use to manage accounting, payroll, human resources, sales and other operations.
It is rare for companies to switch software providers because it is a tedious and expensive process. Still, analysts said that if Fusion Apps are a hit and SAP fails to catch up, then Oracle may be able to win some customers away from the German company.
One research analyst who attended a two-day briefing on Fusion Apps at Oracle’s Redwood City, California, headquarters described the user interface as “slick.”
“It’s leaps and bounds ahead of SAP,” said the analyst, who declined to be identified because Oracle asked that the news be kept quiet until after Ellison formally unveils Fusion Apps in a speech before some 10,000 customers later on Wednesday.
Oracle built Fusion Apps from scratch using some of the technologies found in websites from companies such as Google. Those technologies, dubbed Web 2.0, were not in use when Oracle and SAP wrote the frameworks for their current software.
“The new architecture will make Fusion Apps easier to customize and tailor than SAP,” the analyst said.
Another analyst said that SAP’s software is built on an aging infrastructure. Every time SAP upgrades its product, it is restricted in what it can do because it must write the updated programs upon millions of lines of old code.
For SAP to catch up technically with Oracle, it will have to pursue the same type of mammoth upgrade that Oracle undertook to produce Fusion Apps, the analyst said.
Fusion Apps will initially include software for managing accounting, payroll, human resources, procurement, sales and other business needs that are similar across most industries, according to the people familiar with Oracle’s new software. (Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Richard Chang)
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