Oracle is to release in 2008 a new applications suite, dubbed "Fusion," that will serve as a migration point for customers on all three of its applications platforms.

The news helps clarify Oracle's vision for its applications strategy, a point of concern for PeopleSoft customers throughout the companies' protracted merger battle. Oracle bought PeopleSoft last month for US$10.3 billion, after an 18-month campaign that began with a hostile bid.

Oracle teams comprising both Oracle and PeopleSoft developers are already at work on Fusion, and early technology from the new architecture will be available in 2006, executives said. Oracle expects to release individual Fusion applications in 2007, and to release a full suite in 2008.

In the meantime, it will continue doing routine maintenance work on all three of its applications lines, and will release in 2006 the next major upgrade for each: PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0, EnterpriseOne 8.12 (the software line PeopleSoft acquired from J.D. Edwards) and the Oracle E-Business Suite 12. Those upgrades will be the last major updates in each line before Oracle moves to the converged Fusion line.

Oracle will support each of the three product lines through at least 2013, accordingly to John Wookey, Oracle's newly appointed senior vice president of applications development. Wookey assumes the position previously held by Ron Wohl, whom Oracle quietly replaced soon after finalizing the PeopleSoft deal.

Fusion will be a Java-based, service-oriented architecture with an automated upgrade process from PeopleSoft, Oracle and J.D. Edwards applications. "Not a conversion -- an automated upgrade," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison emphasised in his remarks at the event.

Oracle is in the process of laying off at least 5,000 employees as it combines its business with PeopleSoft's. A few PeopleSoft employees will retain leadership roles in Oracle's applications organization, such as Jesper Andersen, formerly PeopleSoft's tools and technology general manager. Andersen will head Oracle's applications strategy team, Wookey said.

Oracle executives used the event to paint Oracle as a revitalised company ready to aggressively challenge rivals like SAP AG for leadership of the business applications market, which includes software used for managing corporate functions like sales, human resources and supplier relationships.

Oracle's global sales force is 65 percent bigger than it was a month ago, according to company President Charles Phillips. He also said Oracle is reaching out to IBM, a close PeopleSoft partner and the vendor analysts say will be most harmed by the acquisition. Unlike PeopleSoft, Oracle competes with IBM in the market for middleware and database software. Phillips said Oracle will use PeopleSoft's links with IBM to better integrate the two companies' technology.

"Our IBM relationship hopefully will get a lot better going forward," Phillips said.