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NEW YORK—The historic Hudson Theatre was home to a new sort of show Jan. 31—more technology-focused than Broadway—focused—and with a little less fanfare.

Oracle hosted its Applications Unlimited road show here in New York to unveil the next versions of its five major Enterprise Resource Planning suites: Oracle E-Business Suite 12, PeopleSoft Enterprise Suite 9.0, Siebel CRM 8.0, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12 and JD Edwards World A 9.1.

The presentations by Oracle co-president Charles Phillips and head of application development John Wookey were reminiscent of last October’s OpenWorld discussions, particularly around Fusion, Oracle’s next-generation application suite.

During his presentation on the upgraded suites—and to some degree Fusion—Wookey used some of the same examples that he did at OpenWorld last April to describe some of the Fusion development work under way.

Today’s message was, essentially, that Oracle is making good on its promise to provide unlimited upgrades to its existing suites—as long as customers want them.

That’s a good thing, said Robert Lieberman, senior vice president and CIO at New Plan, a commercial insurance company in New York.

Prior to Oracle’s announcement that it would ditch its plan to support the five suites only through 2013, Lieberman said that’s all anyone could focus on.

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“The Applications Unlimited announcement that Charles [Phillips] put out last year, I don’t think people heard it. Or they didn’t hear him, I thought it was quite simple, that 2013 was gone,” said Lieberman, who is also the director of JD Edwards’ Quest user group global board.

“When Charles said [2013] was gone, not a lot of people believed him. Today was a demonstration that 2013 is gone. The World people are jumping up and down.”

That message of stability with the existing suites is one that Oracle is seeking to get across, if at the very least to dispel the notion of a forced migration to Fusion (expected in 2008, Fusion will bring together the “best of” functionality from Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel applications, based on the Oracle EBS data model).

Despite a lot of education at customer events like the Jan. 31 Applications Unlimited event, some customers say they are still not sure whether they should upgrade to the next version of their current suite, upgrade to the latest version announced Jan. 31, or wait for Fusion. And there’s still the lingering question of a forced upgrade.

One caller during the question-and-answer section of the event called in and said the most common question he gets from Oracle’s acquired customer base (PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel) is “How are you going to protect them from costly migrations?” Many customers are looking for clarity, the caller said.

“We spend a lot of time making sure there is upgradeability,” from the current suites to Fusion, Wookey said in response.

“We created a data structure and architecture that supports that upgradability—that’s something we’ve been well on the path for some time. The other piece is the core transaction system is not the only a piece in the [Fusion] ecosystem…a large part of the strategy is we are introducing analytics, reporting, so [users] can start making that transition today. It’s a much more seamless, less destructive way to transition.”

In the latest version of E-Business Suite 12, Oracle has released 18 new products and 2,443 new enhancements to help companies work better globally.

It’s also integrated with Siebel CRM and certified on Fusion Middleware, which will be the underlying platform for Fusion Applications.

PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.0 has two new products and 1,478 enhancements, and leverages Fusion Middleware.

Siebel CRM 8 offers 10 new products and 366 enhancements, particularly around industry verticals. It also has a new task-based user interface, enterprise search capabilities, SOA-enabled CRM and embedded intelligence.

JD Edwards World A9.1 (the first new World release in 10 years) includes four new products and 1,297 enhancements, particularly around compliance support and global operations capabilities.

JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12, which actually came out last spring, has a new Operational Sourcing module, and three new modules for food and beverage, along with 291 enhancements.

But all this work on Oracle’s existing suites may backfire on the company’s massive Fusion investment.

New Plan’s Lieberman says his SOA plans are much further down the line, given that his company is happy with its investment—and the functional upgrades—in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne suite.

And all those World users from Quest? “They’re jumping for joy,” said Lieberman. “They’re like, ‘OK, not only do we not have to move [to Fusion], but now we can add all these other products that work with World—getting the benefit [of SOA] without having to do all that migration.”

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