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IBM Corp. has dislodged Oracle Corp. from the top of the market for database management software, helped along by its billion-dollar purchase of Informix Corp., according to new figures that will be released Tuesday by Gartner Inc.

In 2001, IBM and Informix captured a combined 34.6 percent of worldwide new license revenue from database management systems (DBMS), besting Oracle's 32.0 percent, Gartner said. In 2000, the totals were 33.7 percent for IBM-Informix and 34.1 percent for Oracle.

The market as a whole generated US$8.8 billion in revenue, growing just 1.4 percent from the previous year. By contrast, revenue climbed a brisk 10 percent between 1999 and 2000, Gartner said.

Most DBMS vendors saw single-digit or negative growth, although Microsoft Corp. was a notable exception, Gartner said. The software giant saw revenue from new DBMS licenses climb 17.8 percent, putting it in third place behind Oracle with 16.3 percent of the market. Sybase was fourth with 2.6 percent.

Oracle sought to downplay the numbers. The DBMS market includes all databases, including IBM's mainframe products and Microsoft Access, running on both Unix and Windows, noted Rene Bonvanie, vice president of Oracle 9i marketing. In the Unix database market, worth about $3 billion, Gartner's results showed that Oracle retained its lead with 63.3 percent, compared with 24.7 percent for IBM-Informix, he noted.

Oracle has seen no evidence that customers are leaving for IBM and Microsoft, he said, repeating an assertion made repeatedly in the past year by Oracle's top executives. Instead, Oracle has suffered the most from the collapse of young Internet companies and telecommunication providers, which had driven its growth more than that of its rivals.

"What this research suggests is that Oracle is losing market share, and we have no proof whatsoever that that is happening," Bonvanie said.

He also criticized IBM's Informix acquisition, saying Big Blue spent $1 billion to boost its market share by three percentage points.

IBM was undeterred.

"We're thrilled to have captured the lead from Oracle," said Jeff Jones, a director of strategy with IBM's data management group.

Even without the Informix acquisition, he noted, Gartner's figures showed IBM gaining ground against Oracle in the overall database market. Without Informix, IBM's share of DBMS revenue increased from 30.3 percent to 31.7 percent, while Oracle's slid from 34.1 percent to 32.0 percent.

"We came roaring up behind them even without the Informix acquisition," Jones said.

Still, Gartner made it clear that it was the Informix purchase that tipped the scales for IBM"Without Informix, the contest would have been essentially tied between IBM and Oracle, which were separated by a mere $30 million in new license revenue," the research firm said.

Oracle says figures misleading

Gartner's claims that IBM is the market leader in the database management software market does not tell the real story, according to Oracle Australia Internet technologies director Roland Slee.

He said IBM is not making inroads into the market -- it simply spent $US1 billion acquiring Informix to buy 3 per cent market share.

There are three segments in the database space, Slee said. They are mainframes, dominated by IBM; the Windows space; and the relational database market, where Oracle dominates with 63 per cent of market share.

"This is the genuine database space, where IBM's products do not have the same supportability and scalability as Oracle. These figures are simply misleading," he said.

Gartner analysts were not immediately available to comment further on the figures. Oracle was also surpassed in the Windows market, where Microsoft took the lead. The Redmond, Washington, software maker took 39.9 percent of new license revenue in that sector, up from 35.4 percent in 2000. Oracle saw its share slip, from 38.1 percent in 2000 to 34 percent last year. The Windows database market as a whole was worth $2.55 billion, up 11 percent from 2000.

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