Oracle Media Objects

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Oracle Media Objects (OMO)
Oracle media objects.png
OMO Screenshot
Developer(s) Oracle
Stable release 1.1.2 / 1998 (last date FAQ was updated)
Operating system System Software 6, System 7, Mac OS 8, Mac OS 9
Type hypermedia, development
License Proprietary
Website N/A

Oracle Media Objects, formerly Oracle Card, was a multi-media software development tool for developing multi-media applications, with similar functionality and appearance to Apple Computer' HyperCard.

In the early days of HyperCard at least two alternative tools were created outside of Apple, Spinnaker's Plus and SuperCard. Plus was very much like HyperCard, with the notable distinction of being cross-platform, operating on both Mac OS and Windows. SuperCard was Mac-only at the time, and is still a shipping product.

Plus went on to become more than one product. One variation was WinPlus, which was a Microsoft Windows only version of the program. Another was Oracle Card, distributed by Oracle. First released in 1991, Oracle Card was essentially a redistribution of the Plus runtime engine along with external libraries for establishing connections to RDBMS engines such as Oracle and DB2. As such, Oracle Card stacks could execute queries and associate their results with native variables, making Oracle Card one of the first RDBMS application development environments to support cross-platform development.

A few years later, Oracle acquired the Plus source code from Format Verlag and developed it to become Oracle Media Objects (often referred to by users as OMO). OMO didn't last very long, with development ceasing after version 1.1.2. OMO was used by Oracle to position itself in the video on demand market. At the time, it was thought that the video on demand market was about to become a booming industry, but this never occurred.

Many customers of Oracle that were making large purchases of its core database technology received copies of OMO thrown into the deal. Consequently, an unknown amount of IT development internal to these customers was conducted on the OMO platform. Commercially, there were very few products built using the tool. Amongst these were the "Our Secret Century" series of CD-ROMs published by The Voyager Company (the series was intended to be 12 discs, and 10 did ship before Voyager's CD-ROM line was acquired by another company, leaving the remaining two discs unfinished) and Inside Independence Day made by ACES Entertainment.

Unique Features of OMO[edit]

OMO had the unique distinction of not only its stacks being cross-platform, but also its external libraries (XCMDs). For that purpose, a small subset of the Mac OS memory management commands (Handles) were ported to other platforms. In addition, OMO sported a modular design where every type of object was actually implemented as a plugin file in an "Objects" folder.

OMO's object types included both the standard controls available in other HyperCard clones of the time (buttons, text fields, draw and paint graphics), as well as more complex controls like a spreadsheet field, and non-control items that could be placed on a card but were invisible at runtime, like timers that could be scheduled to send messages after a specified time.

Initial Competitive Impact[edit]

Oracle Card's primary value lay in the fact that, at the time, it was Oracle's only product to offer GUI support on Microsoft Windows. It was therefore sometimes included in sales pitches to potential clients by virtue of the fact that Windows was becoming increasingly popular on the desktop at large corporations. Oracle's primary application development tool, Oracle Forms 3, was character-based and did not run under Microsoft Windows (although it could run in a DOS window or natively on DOS without Windows). Oracle was desperately working on developing an upgrade (Oracle Forms 4) that had GUI features, but development was behind schedule.

A handful of large clients, including the U.S. Postal Service, were known to have developed applications with Oracle Card for internal use. But Oracle Card had no broad, commercial success as a development platform, despite the fact that its feature set surpassed that of Apple's HyperCard in nearly every respect (platform support, database connectivity, vector graphics support, better color support, faster performance, and a richer plug-in architecture).

Eventually Oracle Forms 4 was released, meaning that support for Windows was no longer the exclusive domain of Oracle Card. Because Oracle's customers tended to be more interested in standard, formed-based database applications, rather than in the sorts of data-driven multimedia applications that were possible to create with Oracle Card and its successor, OMO, Oracle eventually threw its full weight behind Oracle Forms 4, casting Oracle Card/OMO into oblivion. However, the Oracle Card team was led by two Oracle employees who have gone on to form their own, successful, technology companies: Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com, and Evan Goldberg, founder of NetSuite.