Boring Portfolio

Boring Portfolio Report
Friday, February 14, 1997
by Greg Markus (MF Boring)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Feb. 14, 1997) -- Hackers had threatened to cripple America Online today with their own version of a Valentine's Day massacre. AOL seems to have survived just fine. Stocks suffered a few superficial lacerations, however.

The Dow lost 33 points to slip back below the 7,000 mark. The S&P 500 index fell 3 (0.41%) and the Nasdaq lost 4 (-0.26%).

The Boring Portfolio managed a small gain against the tide on Friday, tacking $25 onto the record high established the day before. For the week, the Borefolio rose 4.4%, as compared with 2.4% for the S&P 500 and 0.7% for the Nazz.

Four Boring holdings fell fractionally Friday (say that five times, fast) and three were unchanged. But continued strength from CARLISLE (NYSE: CSL) and OXFORD HEALTH PLANS (Nasdaq: OXHP) carried the day.

Carlisle rose $1/4, extending its push into record territory, while Oxford Health soared $2-1/8 on heavy volume. For the week, Carlisle rose 14%, and Oxford clocked a healthy 20% weekly gain -- moving from the Intensive Care Unit to the Olympic trials in a matter of days.

There's no news of note on Boring stocks today, so the balance of tonight's recap offers a tip for the wired investor, weaving in an illustration involving one of the Borefolio holdings, ORACLE (Nasdaq: ORCL).

The World Wide Web is a terrific place to peruse recent issues of trade magazines, learning what experts think about prospects for their industries in general and for the companies you own (or are looking to own) in particular. Journals that a year or two ago were virtually unavailable -- and prohibitively expensive to subscribe to -- are now but a few clicks away. Better yet, most of them have search engines enabling you to track down efficiently whatever you're looking for.

Browsing through a recent issue of Computer Reseller News, I found an interesting article by Shawn Willett. The piece discussed Oracle's first beta version of its object development tool, code-named Sedona, and its second beta-release version of Oracle8, Oracle's next-generation universal server. Oracle8 has been alternately much anticipated and much ridiculed, depending on what database management system religious sect you belong to.

According to Willett, both Sedona and Oracle8 are turning out to be a lot different from what the industry expected. Rather than being an all-purpose solution to managing objects in databases, as Oracle had claimed, Sedona looks to be an incremental replacement for Oracle's existing Developer/2000 tool. Meantime, the latest test version of Oracle8, being sent out to more than 200 sites, is also "undergoing an identity crisis," writes Willett.

These remarks sound like swipes at Oracle -- and they are, in part. They may also imply, though, that Oracle is not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good -- and is serious about getting these products to market fast.

Willett wrote, for example, that the Oracle8 universal server (which will handle multimedia "data" as well as text and numbers) is "becoming a lot less universal and a lot more practical." That's not entirely a bad thing.

Oracle8 is slated to ship in June. Oracle executives say the database can be extended with new data types by third parties -- as rival Informix's universal server can. In contrast to Informix's approach, though, the role of third parties will be limited.

Willett quotes Kelly Herrell, senior director of marketing at Oracle, as saying that the company will publish open specs that can be used by third parties building "data cartridges" to fit with Oracle8. Unlike Informix's "datablades" approach, however, "We will not let third parties or customers have access to the database kernel. We will not jeopardize that," said Herrell.

The data cartridges for Oracle8 will look much like what are called extensions in Oracle7.3. Oracle claims its approach is safer than Informix's and reflects true market needs. The "safer" part is debatable. The "reflects market needs" part is more persuasive -- to me, anyhow.

I suspect that software aesthetes will regard Oracle8 as a bit of a kludge. On the other hand, customers who will buy and use Oracle8 may well see it as a familiar, usable way to meet their needs to manage increasingly variegated kinds of information.

In that regard, Willett concludes, "VARs [value-added resellers] liked the approach Oracle is taking."

I'm with them.

With that, I take my leave to depart for an evening with a gifted choreographer, a gorgeous dancer, a savvy impresario, and an energetic entrepreneur. Just she and I.

Happy Valentine's Day!

(See you Tuesday -- enjoy the holiday on Monday!)

(c) Copyright 1997, The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. This material is for personal use only. Republication and redissemination, including posting to news groups, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of The Motley Fool.

Today's Numbers

Stock  Change    Bid
BGP   -  5/8   42.88
CSL   +  1/4   35.38
CSCO  ---      62.50
GNT   ---      41.13
ORCL  -  1/2   40.75
OXHP  +2 1/4   61.50
PMSI  -  1/8   11.38
SLR   ---      56.13
TDW   -  1/4   44.38
                    Day   Month    Year  History
        BORING   +0.04%   1.29%   5.93%  21.90%
        S&P:     -0.41%   2.84%   9.14%  30.06%
        NASDAQ:  -0.26%  -0.92%   5.90%  31.34%

    Rec'd   #  Security     In At       Now    Change

  2/28/96  200 Borders Gr    22.51     42.88    90.45%
   2/2/96  200 Green Tree    30.39     41.13    35.34%
  8/13/96  200 Carlisle C    26.32     35.38    34.38%
  5/24/96  100 Oxford Hea    48.02     61.50    28.06%
  6/26/96  100 Cisco Syst    53.90     62.50    15.96%
   3/8/96  400 Prime Medi    10.07     11.38    12.97%
 10/15/96  100 Solectron     54.52     56.13     2.93%
 12/23/96  100 Tidewater     46.52     44.38    -4.62%
 11/21/96  100 Oracle Cor    48.65     40.75   -16.24%

    Rec'd   #  Security     In At     Value    Change

  2/28/96  200 Borders Gr  4502.49   8575.00  $4072.51
   2/2/96  200 Green Tree  6077.49   8225.00  $2147.51
  8/13/96  200 Carlisle C  5264.99   7075.00  $1810.01
  5/24/96  100 Oxford Hea  4802.49   6150.00  $1347.51
  6/26/96  100 Cisco Syst  5389.99   6250.00   $860.01
   3/8/96  400 Prime Medi  4027.49   4550.00   $522.51
 10/15/96  100 Solectron   5452.49   5612.50   $160.01
 12/23/96  100 Tidewater   4652.49   4437.50  -$214.99
 11/21/96  100 Oracle Cor  4864.99   4075.00  -$789.99

                             CASH   $5999.08
                            TOTAL  $60949.08