Oracle's Fusion app suite may not ship until 2010

By , IDG News Service |  Enterprise Software, ERP, OpenWorld

Oracle may not deliver the first suite of its long-awaited Fusion Applications until 2010, according to Steve Miranda, senior vice president of Fusion application development.

"We're going to be with early customers at the end of next year, and we're going to be very, very cautious on the [general availability date]," Miranda said in an interview following a session Wednesday at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. "We're going to make sure [the applications] are successful. Period."

On Sunday, another Oracle executive said in a panel discussion that early adopters would go live on the first suite in 2009, but did not indicate in what part of the year that would happen.

Fusion Applications are supposed to combine the best capabilities from Oracle's various product lines, which include E-Business Suite, J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel.

To date, Oracle has shown only a handful of Fusion products, mostly centering on CRM (customer relationship management), and the project, first announced in 2005, has been dogged by concerns that it is behind schedule.

But Miranda demonstrated another Fusion application in the area of project management on Wednesday, and was scheduled to show modules for finance and human capital management later in the day.

His demonstration showed how Oracle is making BI (business intelligence) a hallmark of the Fusion project. The strategy makes sense given rival SAP's acquisition of Business Objects and its efforts to integrate some of that company's BI capabilities with SAP's software.

The embedded BI in Fusion Applications will be "truly pervasive," Miranda said. "In every transaction we have, we'll have some business intelligence information to help the business user make a decision. ... It's not after-the-fact reporting, it's in-line, in that transaction, what do you need to do."

For example, the system might be able to tell a user about to approve an invoice what the impact would be on the company's bottom line, Miranda said.

The project management module Miranda demonstrated also included a range of collaboration capabilities, from discussion forums to presence indicators for online chat.

More than 700 customers have been participating in three years of research around Fusion Applications, according to Miranda. Those companies include FedEx, Kodak, Sears, Target, Toshiba and Coca-Cola, according to a presentation slide he showed.

Floyd Teter of the Oracle Applications Users Group's Fusion Council -- which is trying to get the word out to members about how to prepare for Fusion Applications -- said Oracle might be taking longer than expected, but that it should result in better software.

"Most software projects are driven by schedule; in the applications software space, the market usually rewards the competitor who is first to release," Teter wrote in a recent blog post. "With Fusion Apps, however, product quality seems to be the driving factor and the highest priority that I continually hear about from the people building the apps ... even if achieving acceptable quality means some elements of the development effort take longer than originally planned."

"Those customers and users who have suffered through the pain of early software releases can appreciate this approach," he added.

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