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Sun 13 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Microsoft sets out its bold platform strategy

SQL Server 2005 spearheads the software vendor’s latest major batch of developer tools and server software, which includes Visual Studio 2005 and a beta version of BizTalk Server 2006.

After five years in development, Microsoft has finally released the newest version of its database software.

SQL Server 2005 spearheads the software vendor’s latest major batch of developer tools and server software, which includes Visual Studio 2005 and a beta version of BizTalk Server 2006.

The three products form the foundation of Microsoft’s application platform strategy, according to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

In his keynote speech at the Microsoft products launch in San Francisco last week, he acknowledged the delay of the product releases, saying it was necessary to provide enough time to refine the products.

“Its been a little bit long in the making of some of these products… but we had a little bit of work to do,” Ballmer said. “We learned a lot over the last few years about security and I’ll be darned if we weren’t going to apply that learning wholeheartedly in these major releases,” he added.

SQL Server 2005 includes many enterprise data management and business intelligence functions, such as reporting, business analytics, and data integration, plus tools to help developers organise data-driven solutions faster.

Visual Studio 2005, which is not a single product but a collection of different tools, is gea- red to the needs of different types of users. It will be available in five Express versions for begnners and two versions for more professional developers.

With SQL Server’s new update Microsoft is putting its product in direct competition with IBM and Oracle in the database market, particularly in the large enterprise and mission-critical application space, which is Oracle’s sweet spot.

To entice users to shift to SQL Server, Microsoft has teamed up with SAP to deliver a number of go-to-market schemes, one of which offers a 50% discount for some Oracle custo- mers that switch to SQL Server.

The discount, according to Adam Carroll, SQL Server lead product manager, Microsoft EMEA, is Microsoft’s attempt to make it more economical for firms to switch to SQL Server.

“Of course it’s not economical to migrate because they have multi-year contracts and investments already with vendors like Oracle,” Carroll said.

“[But with the discount] we want to make it more economically feasible for companies to take advantage of the new features of SQL Server 2005,” he stated.

In addition, Microsoft is offering free “express” versions of SQL Server and Visual Studio 2005. Early this month, Oracle has released a free version of its Database 10g Express Edition.

According to Dana Murugan, senior marketing director of Oracle Middle East and Africa, his company is not fazed by the competition that Microsoft plans to push in the market.

“SQL Server represents a step forward for Microsoft but, functionally, it is still several steps behind what we have had available in Oracle Database 10g for over a year."

"Therefore, we believe that it will be very difficult for Microsoft to make significant penetration into the Oracle market share, particularly in the enterprise market, where we have a head start and we offer superior functionality,” Murugan said.

At the same time, he is confident that the Microsoft-SAP alliance will not make any sizeable effect on Oracle as well.

“IBM tried this a while ago, and forged an alliance with SAP. It made no difference then to the massive popularity of the Oracle Database as the foundation for SAP applications and we don’t expect it to make any difference now. Oracle has no reason to be concerned about Microsoft’s campaigns with SAP,” Murugan explained.

Carroll, however, claimed the launch of SQL Server 2005 would mean a big game change in the database market.

“It’s pretty clear that from an enterprise standpoint, from a mission-critical stand point, SQL Server 2005 can handle any customer installations,” he said.

“I think Oracle is aware that SQL Server 2005 is going to be a game change,” he added.

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