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Larry Ellison offered his insights on the future of the database Wednesday afternoon, and even on the state of the San Francisco 49ers. But investors hoping to get new information about the state of the battle to tak eover



would have left the keynote session of Oracle's annual customer convention disappointed.

Asked how he will keep PeopleSoft customers from defecting should the $8.8 billion merger be completed, Ellison repeated a line that Oracle Co-President Safra Catz used the day before: "We're going to oversupport PeopleSoft customers," he told thousands of customers and partners who jammed a football field-sized hall.

The support issue is a big one; Oracle is counting on PeopleSoft customers to stay in the fold and to continue to replenish a rich stream of maintenance revenue, without which the acquisition would be a failure. If customers fear they will not be supported or forced to switch to Oracle applications -- eventualities that Oracle says will never come to pass -- they may well defect to


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or other competitors.

Ellison also indicated he has no interest in raising his $24-a-share bid for PeopleSoft. "I've never known a seller who didn't want more and I've never known a buyer who didn't want to pay less," he said in answer to a question about pressure from PeopleSoft shareholders to sweeten the pot.

Much of Ellison's one-hour talk and Q&A session was devoted to his vision of linked databases, or data hubs, as they are known. Simply put, a data hub unifies the data in many disparate databases, making it possible for a single application to access all of the data. Additionally, data hubs can be updated instantly, a major improvement over old-style data warehouses that refresh themselves on a much slower schedule. Oracle is betting big on data hubs, and on so-called grid computers, essentially linked networks of conventional PCs or servers that have more power than a mainframe computer.

As for the 49ers, Ellison laughed when asked if he is going to buy the once-dominant football team, and said: Unlike PeopleSoft, where you have a willing seller -- the 60.8% of the shareholders -- the Yorks (the team's current owners) don't want to sell. "They've already won a game. I guess that's good enough," he said, drawing a laugh and a few groans from disappointed fans hoping he might rescue the team.