This week's sign of the apocalypse: U2's Bono has joined a Silicon Valley venture capital fund. The Wall Street Journal reports that the firm, Elevation Partners, expects to raise $1 billion to invest in media and entertainment projects. The fund's other founders include John Riccitiello, former president of video game maker and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Electronic Arts(Nasdaq: ERTS); Fred Anderson, formerly Apple Computer's(Nasdaq: AAPL) finance chief; and tech investor Roger McNamee.

How successful this Fab Four will be is anyone's guess. We'd like to see them try to play "Where the Streets Have No Name" from the rooftop of an L.A. grocery, though. We figure The Edge doesn't have much to worry about.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Oracle Rising?

By Ben McClure

Is there any value left in the software sector? Sure, it's hard to find. But with estimate-beating fourth-quarter earnings now out, Oracle Corp.(Nasdaq: ORCL) might be a place to look.

At $12.00, Oracle trades at 20 times 2005 earnings and free cash flow. That's a 20% discount to big cap enterprise software peers Symantec(Nasdaq: SYMC), Siebel Systems(Nasdaq: SEBL), and Verisign(Nasdaq: VRSN). The market treats Oracle as though it has very little left to offer.

Perhaps that's not surprising. Legal wrangling with the Department of Justice over Oracle's proposed takeover of applications software specialist PeopleSoft(Nasdaq: PSFT) continues to hold down the share price. Whatever the outcome of the antitrust case, a resolution will give investors a better sense of Oracle's prospects going forward. Unfortunately, the show could go on and on.

Even so, there is the making of an upturn in the Q4 figures. Oracle said net income for the three months ended May 31 rose to $990 million, or $0.19 share, from $858 million, or $0.16 a share, in the same quarter of last year. Sales rose to $3.1 billion from $2.8 billion.

Following the tech bust, Oracle was the vendor hit hardest. But it now looks like big corporations are gradually shifting back to their old buying habits. Oracle's "bread-and-butter" database business is regaining some steam. The fourth quarter marks a third consecutive quarter of database growth. Importantly, Oracle's license revenues bounced back, growing by 16% in the fourth quarter.

At the same time, Oracle is also grabbing a sizable chunk of the red-hot market for Linux software. According to market research analysts at Gartner Group, Oracle now owns nearly 70% of the market for database software running on Linux.

But don't get too excited. With Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) gunning for the low-end database market with its SQL database software, and IBM(NYSE: IBM) eager to capture the high end with bundled packages, the competitive environment will likely get fierce. Even MySQL, in the open-source world, is proving to be a strong force. Database price pressure is intense. Corporate IT departments are getting deep discounts, sometimes reaching 80% off list.

Oracle's outlook for 2004 is fairly positive. But a big, hard question remains for Oracle investors: Will the software spending up-tick gain momentum through 2005, or will it be remembered as just a temporary blip? Without more top-line expansion, the kind of profit margins required to meet investors' bottom-line growth demands will be awfully hard to find.

Want to read more about Oracle and PeopleSoft? Check out:

Fool contributor Ben McClure hails from the Great White North. He doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned here.

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NBC Keeps Its Perch

By Brian Gorman

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite losing its cash cow show Friends this spring, General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC television network reportedly has again won the most advertising money for its prime-time shows this coming fall season.

As Rick Aristotle Munarriz wrote late last month, May is a do-or-die month for television networks. For a few weeks, TV executives have to put their best foot forward in order to get advertisers to pony up top dollar, up front, for most of the commercial space for prime-time programming. NBC has had an easy time of this for several years, owing to its powerhouse lineup.

This time around, NBC's ability to pull in the most cash, despite broad changes in its portfolio, may be a testament to its salesmanship rather than its top-notch entertainment offerings. No one doubted that Friends and Frasier would be hard to replace. But Friends' replacement, Joey, is still in flux, as NBC recently confirmed that the series' producers made a major casting change. Another show, Father of the Pride, reportedly flopped in advanced screenings. It seems NBC's track record of delivering sit-com smashes may have been the factor that won over advertisers, rather than optimism about the new fall lineup.

This track record could come to an end this year. According to the Washington Post,Viacom's(NYSE: VIA) CBS is nipping at NBC's heels. While NBC was top dog in terms of overall dollars, CBS was able to hike its rates 9% to 10%, the highest increase among the networks. News Corp.'s(NYSE: NWS) FOX, meanwhile, maintained its sales level from last year, bringing in $1.6 billion, while Disney's(NYSE: DIS)struggling ABC saw its take slip from $1.7 billion to $1.5 billion.

The ending for the ad story has yet to be written, however. Networks typically hold back 15% to 25% of their commercial airtime for later sale, and they have reportedly held back more of their inventory this year than last. If NBC's new lineup stumbles, other players still have a chance to steal the show.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.

Discussion Board of the Day: Mobile Phone Virus

Yesterday, security experts issued an alert of the first-ever mobile phone virus, which so far has been deemed harmless. Still, it leaves many wondering if there are more sinister viruses ahead for mobile phone users. Share your concerns with other Fools on our Viruses, hoaxes & spam, oh my! discussion board.

Virus Fight Spreads

By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

It's no secret that viruses are big business these days, but yesterday, we got some clues as to just how big. Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) said that it plans antivirus software, a prospect that sent shares of Symantec(Nasdaq: SYMC) tumbling. As far as Symantec goes, the prognosis could be worse, but it underlines the significance of viruses to business.

Meanwhile, Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) is joining the fight, too. If you were wondering how it might affect a maker of hardware like Dell, a USA Today article outlined why it's in Dell's best interest to go on virus detail.

Consumers with sick machines inundate the Dell support lines; 20% of all regular calls are of that nature, with the calls spiking 200% to 300% when a high-profile virus strikes. So while a virus is not a hardware problem, it becomes one when a consumer doesn't know his or her machine's infected and just needs to make it work.

Dell plans to offer education for customers and will work with antivirus software makers in lowering prices for the software bundled on its machines, as price is likely a significant barrier to adoption for some computer users.

Symantec may be deeply entrenched in the antivirus market with its Norton Antivirus software, but the panic associated with the entry of Microsoft into the market is understandable. Microsoft's high profile and deep pockets certainly make it a force to reckon with.

However, Symantec investors should take some comfort in knowing that Microsoft may have learned something from past antitrust problems when it embedded software into its operating system. Microsoft said its AV software will be available on a stand-alone basis, giving rivals a fighting chance.

Although Microsoft has the big pocketbook and a very vested interest in improved security, Symantec and its rival Network Associates(NYSE: NET) have expertise and focus in the area. Plus, Microsoft's reputation has been more for swooping in and throwing its weight around than innovation, and it's going to have its work cut out for it, especially given past criticism that it's a little slow on the draw.

After all, the loonies and brats (likely also basement dwellers) that write viruses move fast, and they love to get under Microsoft's skin in particular. Further, the virus environment keeps evolving. Earlier this year, one took a disturbing turn, and just yesterday, there was word of the first-ever mobile phone virus, which is not damaging but disturbing nonetheless. Companies involved in all aspects of technology need to focus on keeping it clean, or run the risk of losing both customers and efficiency, which damages their top and bottom lines.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She runs antivirus software on her Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iMac, but has never had any problems with viruses on her machine.

Quote of Note

"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image." -- Stephen Hawking

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