Oracle, IBM databases go mobile

The mobile database market will heat up next week as two of the biggest relational database vendors, Oracle and IBM, announce aggressive plans to provide database functionality on a variety of portable devices.

"Our vision is to provide any application and Internet content on any device -- anytime, anywhere," said Denise Lahey, vice president of the mobile and embedded products division at Oracle.

"This will reduce the complexity of giving out applications and data, allowing users to access the same applications and the same data whether they are online or offline," Lahey added.

The first part of Oracle's mobile vision will be realised in June when the company ships Oracle8i Lite, a 50KB version of its flagship database. Oracle will also lay out its road map next week for an array of products targeted at providing mobile database functionality.

Features will include embedded and personal information appliance database offerings, which could mean easier data and application access for mobile employees.

"It will be good to get a little bit of connectivity without having to [jockey] things around," said James Leary, a senior power marketing specialist at Pennsylvania Power and Light, in Berwick, Pa. "It will also be nice to have a major platform supporting the PalmPilots."

IBM will also look to improve its mobile database offerings with the announcement this week of two additions to the DB2 database family designed for mobile workers using a variety of portable devices.

The first offering from IBM will be a stripped down version of DB2 for mobile workers with laptops running Windows 95 or Windows 98. The second is a new DB2 product designed to run on handheld devices with limited memory, such as PalmPilots.

Although next week's announcements signal a strong commitment from both companies to providing complete database functionality to mobile users, it may still be quite a while before the vision is realised.

"So far, I don't see anyone tackling anything other than the data piece," said Frank Gillett, an industry analyst at Forrester Research.

"You need a lot more than a data store. You need a run-time environment, some way to execute code, and then middleware services that let you make calls to components that are on the network. It's that last piece that's the toughest one," Gillett added.

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