When Oracle held its annual OpenWorld user conference in San Francisco last month, CEO Larry Ellison grabbed the spotlight with a game-changing announcement about his company’s “Unbreakable Linux”. On the sidelines, however, the software giant quietly unveiled new application offerings that could have a greater impact on mid-market companies in general and JD Edwards users in particular.

By now, everyone down to the bag boys at your local supermarket has heard that Oracle is going to ship its own variant of Red Hat Linux. In the midst of all the Linux hullabaloo, the 41,000 attendees at OpenWorld overlooked the equally important unveiling of a new product line known as Oracle Accelerate. Admittedly, Oracle downplayed the announcement to the point where few could have recognized its significance. Despite its less than stellar debut, Accelerate is the sleeper offering that could be marching at the front of Oracle’s product parade next year.

Oracle Accelerate is an initiative to create preconfigured, aggressively priced packages of Oracle applications for 20 industries and their subindustries. The packages will include documentation on industry business processes and licenses to the products that Oracle recommends for supporting those processes. Each package will also come with Accelerators, tools for configuring Oracle’s applications to support each user’s business processes. Customers will also receive information about software and services from Oracle’s partners that complement the Accelerate packages. Many of the packages–particularly those in the manufacturing, distribution, and property management fields–will include components from EnterpriseOne.

While the new offerings should be attractive to mid-market companies, their significance extends beyond their immediate appeal. Through the offerings, Oracle will provide its customers with clear guidelines to which products they should choose from the vendor’s broad portfolio of applications. Such guidance is something that Oracle’s customers sorely need in the wake of the company’s acquisition of more than 20 software vendors over the last several years.

In addition, Oracle Accelerate could help the vendor build a stronger ecosystem of business partners around its industry applications. This is something that Oracle must do to compete effectively with its archrival SAP, a solution provider that has developed deep partner ecosystems around the vertical industries it supports. While Oracle has many partners that specialize in vertical industries, it has not organized them to the same degree that SAP has with its partners. Oracle Accelerate could provide the focal point for ecosystem building that the vendor needs.

It should be noted that most of the Oracle Accelerate packages will not ship until the first half of 2007. It will be no small task for Oracle to create preconfigured application packages for dozens of industries and subindustries. I can tell you, however, that key people inside Oracle have made significant progress in deciding which applications will come into play in each industry. Based on what I have learned from them, I see significant potential in the offerings that they will bring to market in the coming months. Look for a bigger and splashier launch of Oracle Accelerate in February of next year.