SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle yesterday gave attendees at OpenWorld a glimpse of what to expect in its forthcoming Fusion applications -- a combination of "best of" functionality from its many recent acquisitions -- while maintaining that it has lived up to its promises.
Since it first announced the program in 2005, Oracle has been promising that the first Fusion applications will be delivered in 2008. Yet, with last month's departure of John Wookey, the head of its Fusion application division, speculation has abounded that Oracle would delay the first release. Some analysts predicted that Oracle would deliver just a few small features and declare mission accomplished.
"The dates that we talked about in shipping our first parts and modules in 2008 is still our plan, and we're still on track to do that," Chuck Rozwat, senior vice president of application development, told reporters in a question-and-answer session. "John's departure was the function of a reorganization. John didn't see a role for himself in that new structure. If you go back and you can look at slides we used, we clearly said we would begin shipping Fusion applications in 2008. Stay in tune the next couple days; you'll here more about that."
In an afternoon keynote here, Ed Abbo, Oracle's senior vice president for application development, demonstrated what the first iteration of Fusion applications will look like. They will be based on standards-based middleware and will embed business intelligence capabilities and make use of Oracle's WebCenter product.
That was not enough for all attendees, however. Some were expecting more detail on Fusion.
"What does the Fusion model mean for us," asked Giel van der Veen, manager of central finance administration with CZ, a Netherlands-based company currently running PeopleSoft 8.8 Financials and HR, which plans to upgrade to 9.0 or 9.1 in 2009.
CZ has an eye toward Fusion applications.
"There was plenty about PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards," van der Veen said. "I hoped to hear more about Fusion."
Meanwhile, Oracle continued to sound its message of choice, pledging lifetime support to customers on previous releases of Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. It will also continue to enhance those products as it builds toward Fusion, Abbo said. (See sidebar.)
"We're certified on Fusion Middleware and will provide consistency across our applications," Abbo said, "so the experience is similar and will evolve you to the next generation of applications, which are Fusion applications."
Web 2.0 technology will also feature prominently in future releases. Oracle has begun developing Web 2.0 features into its CRM application, which Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle OnDemand, demonstrated during the keynote. One feature, a sales library, will allow sales reps to access materials such as individual slides in PowerPoint presentations and product sheets, and share and vote on the best materials in a sales community.
Previous salesforce automation functionality has focused on forecasting and a hierarchical structure where, for example, a sales rep sends opportunities to a manager who then makes adjustments and pushes it up the chain, Abbo said. But there are many other ways CRM vendors can serve sales users.
"Other interactions, many of them are social in nature," he said, pointing to someone who may look for help closing a deal. "You're really forming communities, looking to the customer base for a reference, a business partner for an opportunity, products people for product information. That social impact is not well modeled in systems today. A lot of it is done over email, and that's not efficient."
Other features will include tagging to help search for relevant content in the system, and Google mash-ups. A Google executive appeared on stage to promote Oracle's use of Google gadgets and its participation in OpenSocial, Google's efforts to bring a common set of standards to Web 2.0 development. CRM OnDemand version 15 will allow users to bring the OnDemand application into iGoogle pages and pull outside sources such as Reuters RSS news feeds into the CRM application.
Thomas Kurian, Oracle's head of Fusion Middleware, said in the subsequent question-and-answer session that the Web 2.0 applications will be secure.
"When you create a mash-up using Oracle WebCenter technology, with our applications the way you identify and authenticate it, the user is partitioned from the way you access information on the Internet applications," Kurian said.
Abbo said that Web 2.0 features will initially be embedded in CRM and human capital management applications.