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At Lotus And Oracle?

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On the eve of launching what it had been calling a "Notes-killer," Oracle on Sept. 25 inked a deal with Lotus Development, maker of the popular Notes "groupware" program, to link Notes with Oracle's market-leading database. Now, insiders say Lotus ceo Jim Manzi and Oracle ceo Larry Ellison also are considering merging their companies. Insiders say a merger was discussed in late August and as recently as Sept. 20, when the two met at Ellison's Silicon Valley home, though Oracle USA President Raymond Lane dismisses the meetings as "idea talk." Combining the companies would make sense, analysts say, but there's at least one potential dealbreaker: One of the high-profile chiefs would have to step aside. Besides, Lotus may have a better offer: A source close to Lotus says at&t wants a stake in the software maker.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDS

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