Microsoft plans late entry in mobile database race

Microsoft yesterday became the last horse to join the mobile database race.

The company is joining the race behind Sybase, Oracle and IBM, but may be able to make up serious ground with a new data architecture designed to expand Windows CE access to a new range of appliances.

At the Windows CE developer conference in Denver, Microsoft demonstrated a Windows CE version of its SQL Server database that company officials feel will allow them to compete with existing mobile offerings. The solution, however, will not be available even in beta form until the first quarter of next year, and Microsoft officials said they are not yet ready to discuss features, availability, or pricing for the product.

Meanwhile, Sybase, which pioneered the mobile database market, shipped its UltraLite database for Windows CE in April; Oracle will ship 8i Lite, its fourth-generation mobile database, this month; and IBM has announced plans to ship a mobile version of its database, DB/2 Everywhere, by the end of the year.

While that may mean Microsoft is playing catch-up from a product availability standpoint, however, Microsoft officials noted that this is still a new market, and feel the company has simply joined the other horses in the starting gate in terms of delivering a complete solution that will meet customer needs.

"Other companies have announced mobile databases lately, but the bottom line is there really aren't many people building applications today," said Barry Goffe, product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft. "People are really just starting to think about what this next generation of applications are going to do and what the next generation of hardware is going to provide."

The technology that could help Microsoft move from a step behind to a length ahead in the Windows CE database market, is a global data access architecture for Windows CE, also announced today. Based on ActiveX Data Objects and OLE DB, the architecture is designed to provide a consistent set of interfaces for data access. According to Goffe, this could be key in pushing Windows CE database adoption forward.

"It's not only good for SQL Server, its good for the industry," said Goffe. "It helps developers take advantage of a single set of APIs (application programming interfaces) on the platform, and also makes it really easy for developers to take complete advantage of these new mobile technologies."

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