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October 6, 1999

Ellison to Launch Project Panama Next Week

By CBR Staff Writer

By Siobhan Kennedy

Oracle Corp’s CEO Larry Ellison will use the Telecom 99 show in Geneva next week to unveil technology that will enable users to browse the internet using their cellular phones. Code-named Project Panama, the technology delivers existing static and dynamic internet content to any internet device. Oracle has been hyping Panama, the name given to its server that houses the technology, since the beginning of this year, and next week Ellison said the technology, which will be renamed portal to go will become available to all users of GPRS-compliant digital cellular phones and 3Com’s Palm VII handheld PCs.

This is a very big deal, Ellison told ComputerWire during a press conference on the first day of Internet World in New York yesterday. With a cell phone, you’ll be able to buy and sell stocks at eTrade or go on-line and check your flight’s arriving on time. If it’s not, you can set the system up to tell you there’s been a delay. Ellison said he chose to launch the service in Europe because the region has the highest uptake of cellular phones, along with the most developed wireless networks in the world.

I’m making a bold prediction here, he said, but I believe Europeans will pass the US in internet usage because they are so way ahead in cellular telephony. He added: But soon, everyone with a TV, a phone, a PC, a handheld computer, will have access to the internet. Likewise, the wireless market is booming in Asia too, he said.

He said there are currently three times as many cellular phones in the world than there are PCs and by the year 2000, there will be more non-PC devices accessing the internet than computers. With the falling prices of computers and the daily introduction of internet-based handheld and smart devices, Ellison predicts that wireless networks will become the focal point for web access.

Project Panama is based on XML with Oracle 8i on the back end. It works by translating HTML into XML and then transforms XML into wireless markup language (WML), tagged text markup language (TTML) or whatever markup language is running on the device. All this should be automatic, but Oracle acknowledges the need for occasional human intervention. Service providers – the main market for Project Panama – will be provided with a toolkit so they can review and tweak the way a web application appears on a wireless device. A prototype has already been deployed by Telia, the largest mobile operator in Scandinavia. Pricing details and partnerships will be announced next week.

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