Oracle Corp is to launch a new network computing server operating system in Japan on April 15, with the aim of turning personal computer servers into ‘thin server’ appliances that dish up individual applications to Network Computers. Mirroring its efforts to limit the functionality of ‘thin client’ Network Computers, Oracle will position the cutdown, embedded operating system as a dedicated Network Computer application server restricted to one or two tasks. Though shy of the term operating system, Ray Lane, Oracle chief operating officer, acknowledges that the new software will compete directly with low-end Unix and Microsoft’s Windows NT. In the same way there is an NC operating system, we will have an NC server operating system, says Lane, suggesting that installing the new operating system will be like installing an applicance. He says a typical application might be in a bank branch where the aim would be to give tellers a single application running on a low-cost personal computer server with a CD-ROM containing the operating system, the banking application, Oracle InterOffice groupware and electronic mail, and all other software. That set-up would enable, say, 25 attached Network Computers, he explains, but without the cost and complexity of having to run Unix or NT on the server. It just runs. Nobody changes it, nobody does games in it. It basically does one thing. But running without Unix or NT, effectively makes it a competitor – albeit a functionally slim one. It doesn’t do what a programmable operating system such as NT does. This is an operating system for an appliance. Think of it as being more akin the the operating system of your home stereo. It is the software that makes the buttons do what they do. At the Japan conference, Oracle’s Larry Ellison is also expected to unveil several Network Computer devices, made by Japanese consumer electronics companies, based on the Oracle Network Computer reference design (CI No 2,918).