Apple and Oracle have announced certification of the Apple Macintosh client on the Oracle E-business suite. This is a big deal for Macintosh users as the announcement means that a comprehensive suite of Internet-enabled business applications is now available to them for the first time.

Larry Ellison (pictured here), Oracle's CEO and Apple board member, said: "The certification of our E-Business Suite for the Macintosh proves that Apple and Oracle products work together seamlessly - every application we make works with the Mac today."

Oracle's E-Business Suite is a full collection of Web and Java-based applications that companies can use to put their customer interactions, internal operations and supply chain details online. It means companies can communicate internally between departments, and externally to customers and suppliers. All Macintosh users will need to access Oracle's solution is a Mac browser and Apple Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.2.3 (MRJ).

“We’re thrilled that our education and business customers will now be able to manage their organizations using Oracle’s market leading e-business applications,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “We’ve got a lot of customers who are going to jump for joy over this.”

Oracle partners with Apple Oracle's E-business suite supports Mac OS 9.0.4, and OS X support is promised in 2001. In a joint statement, the companies revealed they would be "conducting a series of joint e-business initiatives in key Apple market segments, including education and small business."

Apple and Oracle are beginning a series of higher education seminars in 100 top US colleges and universities. Apple UK's plans for demonstrating the new-to-the-Mac solution remain hidden at this time. Oracle will also include Macs in their standard sales demonstrations for its E-business Suite.

Apple and Oracle are also teaming up to promote Oracle's hosted online services for small business – these include Oracle Business Online and OracleSalesOnline.com – these offer users access to enterprise business applications and sales automation capabilities. Oracle has also boosted its support services, expanding these to offer support for the Mac client.

Macs on the payroll One major US education customer, Yale University spoke about what the provision of this new solution from the companies would mean to it. Indy Crowley, director administrative systems, information technology services, Yale University, said: “This certification will enable our faculty and administrative staff using Macs to access our enterprise Financial and Human Resources/Payroll systems, and will provide expanded flexibility to meet Yale’s strategic objectives of streamlining administrative processes and improving service.”

Oracle's Ellison and Apple's Jobs have a relationship that goes back years. In Apple's darkest moments, Ellison has been discussed as a potential take-over leader. Michael Malone, in his book "Infinite Loop" records Ellison's feelings for Apple: "Apple is the only lifestyle brand in the industry," he said. "It's the only company people feel passionate about. My company, Oracle, is huge; IBM is huge; Microsoft is huge; but no one has incredible emotions with our companies."

Apple's dumb friend? Ellison has long been a champion of the network computer, the so-called "Dummy Terminal". These machines are basically client computers with little or no functions on-board. Instead, they work by accessing applications, information or entertainment over a network. Oracle's Java-based services, Business Online and OracleSalesOnline offer a similar service for small business, in that the applications are Java-based and hosted by Oracle – and accessed over a network.

During Apple's financial results call last October, Jobs discussed the future of Internet appliances and handheld computers. He predicted a collision between these and mobile telephones "soon". He also discussed the challenge of creating such machines that could offer compatibility with emerging Web standards, or software solutions.

However, in an interview during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in May this year, Phil Schiller, Apple's VP worldwide product marketing, went on the record to deny that the company had plans to enter this market.

During the JavaOne conference in June, Jobs promised that OS X would offer: "The best Java platform on the planet – right out of the box."

Java applications require only an appropriate Java-enabled Internet browser, and some kind of computer to run. Ellison's dream of network computers combined with Jobs' close relationship with Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Micrososytems - which drives Java development - who calls Jobs a "personal hero", and the Unix core of Apple's soon-to-be-released Mac OS X, could open up new markets for Apple.