Oracle plan may enable PC users to customize news Oracle plan may enable PC users to customize newsBy John Markoff

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO

Oracle Corp., a leading maker of software for managing large computer data bases, is in discussions with several telephone, computer and news organizations to create a nationwide digital video service that would let users of personal computers customize their own video newscasts or conduct on-line research from video news archives.

The discussions, which are not complete, have involved long-distance carriers AT&T Corp. and MCI Communications Corp., chip maker Intel Corp. and the news organizations CNN and Reuters, among other companies, according to people familiar with the plans.

The Oracle service would seek to give desktop computer users much greater flexibility than offered by various video broadcast news services now available from Dow Jones and Bloomberg Business News, among others.

The Oracle service would offer news clips digitally stored on a network ``server'' computer, meaning the clips could be searched according to subject matter and retrieved in any order, similar to the way people now use computers to sort through text-based news wires and data bases.

An NBC news service called NBC Desktop Video, now being introduced, has similar ambitions. With this service, digital video news feeds are broadcast throughout the day to corporate customers, who can distribute the material through their office computer networks or store it for later retrieval by employees.

Interactive concept

The Oracle concept is similar to the interactive television programming planned by cable and telephone companies, in which viewers of evening newscasts and other programs are supposed to have much greater choice in deciding what they watch and when they watch it.

Oracle also has been promoting its software for use in these digital interactive systems, and already has such deals with Bell Atlantic and U S West. Oracle has also discussed the development of interactive television news data bases with Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and Washington Post Co.

One analyst, Paul Saffo, said that while many people in the computing and telecommunications industries were assuming that movies-on-demand would help finance a range of new interactive digital services to the home, digital video news that can be customized might be a more compelling offering.

``This is going to reinvent the news industry,'' said Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future, an industry research and consulting firm in Menlo Park.

Oracle mum

Executives at Oracle, which is based in Redwood Shores, would not comment on their digital-news plans, nor would other companies said to be in talks with Oracle.

The Oracle service would be aimed at people at work and consumers at home, though using it would require a special high-speed telephone circuit known as an integrated-services digital network, or ISDN line.

People familiar with Oracle's strategy said the company hoped to attract a wide range of television and newspaper organizations that would place their news video, audio and text information on a single server computer.

That would permit viewers to choose material a la carte from a computer screen, just as if they were ordering from a restaurant menu.

Customized news

That capability, several industry executives said, would make it possible for news organizations like Reuters to direct news video and text to very specific audiences or local markets -- offering a focused selection of information relevant to Vietnamese immigrants living anywhere in the United States, for example, or world and national news of special interest to people in Peoria, Ill.

``The future is local news,'' Saffo said.

One component of Oracle's digital-news strategy is to be made public on April 9, when the company plans to announce its digital ``newsroom of the future'' technology with Sony Corp., the leader in television newsroom editing systems.

The announcement, which will be made the day before the opening of the meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas, will focus on Oracle's server software and on Sony's new hardware for digital production of video information.

Published 3/15/95 in the San Jose Mercury News.

This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of the originating newspaper or wire service. NewsHound is a service of the San Jose Mercury News. For more information call 1-800-818-NEWS.