Perhaps inspired by host city Los Angeles, Oracle Corp. chairman and CEO Larry Ellison delivered to 18,000 OpenWorld attendees a keynote that came across as a Hollywood movie, complete with props, a dastardly villain and even a surprise walk-on.

Users, partners and press poured into the L.A. Convention Centre on the second day of OpenWorld to hear Ellison – the hero of the tale – talk about his company’s new Internet strategy, and to criticize the current client/server dominance of IT.

Ellison told the audience to ditch their PCs and the software that resides on it – the two evils that have led “distributed complexity” in the enterprise, he explained – and to throw their applications onto as few servers as possible, and then access them via the Web.

“All you need is an Internet browser,” Ellison said. “Every Oracle application runs on servers. We don’t do desktop software at all (anymore). Just say no.”

And Oracle is starting to take its own advice. The company is consolidating much of its data, slashing, for example, the number of human resources servers in its organization from 70 to one. Similar cuts in servers are being made in all areas of Oracle, officials added.

Not surprisingly, Ellison saved his sharpest barbs for Microsoft Corp., who he repeatedly charged with using its PC-centric dominance to make computing difficult and expensive. He also outlined the five steps of Microsoft’s “stealing someone else’s idea” process, and even took credit for inspiring a Microsoft product. “They recently announced their own network computer, called Web Companion,” he said.

In a later press conference, Ellison also aired his views on the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent findings of fact which ruled that Microsoft is a monopoly. He slammed Microsoft for “stifling innovation” for its alleged role in undermining Netscape Communication Corp.’s browser, and called for Microsoft’s break-up into three competing companies.

“(But) Microsoft is betting the government won’t have the courage to do anything,” he said.

Ellison also made it clear that he views Oracle’s concept of Web-based computing as nothing short of a revolution. In fact, should the industry abandon client/server and move to the Internet, Ellison said the much talked-about IT skills shortage would disappear.

“There are two possibilities, either there aren’t enough trained people – that millions aren’t enough – or the systems themselves are so complex that no wonder we’re out of people and out of time.”

Ellison also showed off some Oracle-inspired gadgets. During one product demonstration, Ellison used his PCS phone running the Oracle Go browser to pay for a Coke from a Jini-enabled pop machine. Jini is Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Java-based Web-appliance infrastructure.

“These things outnumber PCs three-to-one,” he said, referring to network computers, a term he insisted represents many electronic appliances. “Soon everyone will be attached to the Internet over their phones and TVs.”

Ellison ended his speech by inviting L.A. Lakers’ star Shaquille O’Neal to join him on the stage. Both men are spearheading a charity campaign to equip schools around the world with computers. For a donation of US$199, Ellison said, someone can see to it that a child gets one.

Although Ellison directed attendees to visit a Web site for more details on the project – – it was still under construction as of press time.