Oracle's founder sweeps into London with a scorching attack on Microsoft `law breaking'

LARRY ELLISON, the founder of Oracle, swept into London yesterday on his global sales tour, and promptly laid into his archrival, Bill Gates of Microsoft.

Mr Ellison, commenting on the current anti-trust investigations being pursued by the American authorities against Microsoft, declared that Mr Gates' company had "egregiously broken the law over and over and over again".

Mr Ellison said that Microsoft had clearly known that they were breaking the law when they paid people not to use the Netscape Internet browser. "They clearly knew they were breaking the law when they set out to destroy Netscape, the most innovative corporation of the 1990's - and they won. Netscape has gone."

Mr Ellison, whose vision of the Internet is fundamentally different to that of Mr Gates, complained bitterly that the American government was running scared of Microsoft.

He said the proposed penalties against Microsoft were similar to those against someone who had broken into a bank, who was then allowed to keep the money, on condition that they attended classes at the weekend to teach them not to do it again. Mr Ellison grudgingly conceded that "these guys are smart".

Mr Ellison went on to tell an audience of IT professionals in the QE2 Centre in London that his prediction four years ago that PCs would give way to a new generation of much simpler networked terminals had come true. In those days, he declared yesterday, PCs had cost $3,000 whereas now the price in the US had sunk to $400.

He then went on to attack Microsoft's latest project, Windows NT, which Microsoft has described as the most complex engineering project in the history of mankind. Mr Ellison said: "They're brilliant guys but they're going full speed in the wrong direction."

When asked whether he thought the London Stock Exchange's proposed new market, Techmark, aimed at fast growing technology business, would be a success he said: "I wouldn't be at all surprised to see these new electronic markets eclipsing conventional stock markets." He said that existing stock exchanges would have to adopt new technology or die.

The Internet guru also declared his enthusiasm for his recent investment in a British web company "Beenz is currently the leading web currency and it looks like it will continue to be the strongest digital currency in the world," he said. awards units of digital currency, dubbed beenz, to people who visit its web site.

Mr Ellison was also upbeat on the prospect of Internet usage in Europe, saying that the Continent had the opportunity to leapfrog the US because of the sheer speed with which the technology is developing.