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Microsoft Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 14:49 GMT
Larry Ellison: A profile
Larry Ellison and James Barksdale
Ellison and James Barksdale enjoy a Microsoft joke
The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison.

That was the title chosen by a biographer for the founder and driving force behind the computer firm Oracle.

Ellison has been an outspoken supporter of moves to break Microsoft up.

"I think when somebody breaks the law, they should be punished," says the jet-fighter flying entrepreneur.

In the past 25 years he has built Oracle from a standing start with $2,000 savings, to become one of the key players in the internet age.

Its growth to be worth nearly $170bn came in parallel with Microsoft's, on only a slightly reduced scale - although after the bursting of the net bubble, it is now worth a mere $54bn.

Beasts in the jungle

Three times married Ellison, brought up in a poor neighbourhood in Chicago, is one of the more colourful figures in the industry, enjoying something of a playboy reputation.

Aside from flying and sailing, he also supports efforts to protect gorillas - but he is better known for his love of tangling with Microsoft, the biggest beast in corporate America.

The most recent phase of competition came in 1996 when Ellison laid the groundwork for Oracle's phenomenal recent growth, by predicting the personal computer was set to be eclipsed by the internet.

The history of Oracle had been a company which developed database software for companies to store their information. To allow many people to access information at a company at the same time.

During this time it was dwarfed by Microsoft, which had correctly predicted the growth of the PC.

But after a month long sabbatical in 1996, when he used Netscape Navigator to explore the internet, he decided that www was the future, setting out to reshape Oracle.

Internet changes all

His vision, in 1996, was of network computers, relatively simple machines which could call up data and software stored on a large central computer elsewhere.

These products could be an adapted TV set - or handheld mobile phone-like devices - which would not need an operating system.

The internet's growth also appears to have paid off for Oracle's business targeted operations as demand for its software grows - Ellison claims 90% of the world's most highly valued dot coms use Oracle software.

"The growth of corporate intranets and the world wide web is driving demand," said Ellison, who also sits on the board of Apple Computers.

"Our early commitment to internet computing has enabled us to extend our lead in world database market share ... the internet changes everything - especially the software business."

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