In a product launch hailed as one of the biggest in the company's history, Microsoft officially released SQL Server 2005 on Monday, its first upgrade of the database software in five years in a heated enterprise market.
Also released were Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft's package of tools for software developers, and a new beta version of BizTalk Server 2006, due for a formal release next year.
The launch in London Monday afternoon was attended by many of Microsoft's partners and businesses that are already using some of the software products. It marks a change in the company's image from being focused on the desktop and client into the "richness of capabilities in our enterprise products," said Alistair Baker, managing director of Microsoft and vice president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Microsoft's update of its SQL server will place it in direct competition from companies such as Oracle and IBM, both strong players in the corporate database market. While Microsoft sells more databases than IBM and Oracle combined, Microsoft has had only about 20 percent of revenue in that market because of the "glass ceiling" of capabilities inside of its database, Lees said.
As a sweetener, Microsoft is offering a 50 percent discount for those businesses currently using an Oracle database and want to try the enterprise edition of SQL Server 2005, said Andrew Lees, corporate vice president at Microsoft for server and tools marketing.
"If you want to migrate your database over to our SQL Server, we don't want that initial cost of a license to be a reason not to move," Lees said. "We believe that we have a comprehensive applications platform, one that a business can trust."
Microsoft is also offering free "express" editions of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 for download, waiving a US$49 fee for those editions during the launch phase of the products. Lees said Microsoft will review demand to see whether they will reinstate the charge.
"We want to be very broad in terms what we're doing to help people get into developing and producing solutions," Lees said.
Microsoft will have other offerings, giving out about 190,000 samples of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk 2006, at about 300 launch events, Lees said.