November 7, 2005 11:48 AM PST

Microsoft launches long-awaited updates

SAN FRANCISCO--After a number of delays, Microsoft on Monday launched long-awaited updates to its flagship database programs and developer tools.

CEO Steve Ballmer officially launched SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, along with a new beta version of the company's BizTalk Server software, at an event at the Moscone West convention center here.

Ballmer said that the new versions represent major advances, but acknowledged they were "a little bit long in coming." It's been five years, for example, since Microsoft released the last version of SQL Server.

"At least a little more rapid cycle time would be appropriate," Ballmer said.

In addition to the standard products, Microsoft announced a free "express," or stripped-down, version of SQL Server and a $49 express version of Visual Studio. Oracle last week said it was making a free, limited version of its database available.

"Our goal with this set of releases is to have something for everybody," Ballmer said. "We haven't forgotten the broadest set of developers we have, which are these Web developers, students and hobbyists."

Microsoft also introduced a Workgroup edition of its SQL Server product for small businesses, which costs $3,899 per processor.

The Standard Edition of SQL Server went up in price from $4,999 per processor to $5,999, and its Enterprise Edition price remains the same at $24,999 per processor.

Alongside the main Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft introduced a high-end edition called Team System, which is aimed at groups of programmers, testers and architects. Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite starts at $10,939 and is used with server software components that range in price from about $500 to $5,000.

Microsoft said late last month that it had wrapped up development on the Visual Studio and SQL Server updates.

BizTalk 2006, which is in beta now and will be available in the first half of next year, is designed for linking different applications. Microsoft had originally been aiming to get the final version of the software out by the first quarter of next year, but an executive said the company made the timing change "to set expectations conservatively so we can be sure we can meet them." The integration software sends data between different applications and completes tasks, such as converting between different document formats.

On Monday, Microsoft said that the adapters to different packaged applications, including Oracle eBusiness Suite, Peoplesoft and Siebel, will be available for free with BizTalk 2006.

BizTalk 2006 will build in more capabilities around automating workflow and be designed to collect and process data from radio frequency ID readers, according to company executives.

Ballmer: No job too big
Ballmer used part of his keynote to talk of the gains that Microsoft had made in being able to handle tasks that were previously limited to Unix-based servers and mainframes.

"Today we should be able to convince you that there is no job too big to run on the Windows and Microsoft platform," Ballmer said. He brought up Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who showed off the latest in Intel and Windows-based hardware from makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC and Hitachi. Otellini also touted the added ability from within Visual Studio 2005 to work directly with Intel's compilers and tools.

In discussing SQL Server, Ballmer also reiterated a Microsoft pitch to win Oracle database customers, offering a 50 percent discount for some customers that switch to SQL Server from rival products. Oracle, for its part, issued a statement touting its support for Microsoft's new developer tools and the Windows version of its database software.

Although Monday was focused on Microsoft's traditional software products, Ballmer made a brief references to the company's expanded services effort, including its launch of Windows Live and Office Live last week.

"We know we need to evolve our platform from client and server all the way out to the cloud," Ballmer said.

Microsoft also showed off the ability to access SQL Server 2005 data directly from within Excel in Office 12, the new version of the desktop suite that is due out in the second half of next year.

PCL Constructors, an Edmonton, Alberta-based construction company, used the new database and developer tools to build a system for managing documents across desktop computers throughout North America. The system allows the documents to be stored primarily on the desktop rather than on a central server, with only the changes being sent across the network.

"We're hoping to get good performance without having to put servers everywhere," said Gerry Salm, a systems and technology manager at PCL.

An executive at Avanade, the consulting firm that helped PCL build its system, said that the new programs have a lot to offer, but said that the five years it took Microsoft to upgrade SQL is too long for companies to have to wait for some services.

"Eighteen to 24 months seems about right to our customers," said Larry Barnes, Avanade's enterprise collaboration practice director. "That syncs up with what Microsoft and the SQL team is looking for the future. A lot of our customers feel comfortable with that."

CNET's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.


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SP1 for each of these out soon--hopefully
Numerous fatal crashes exist in Visual Studio as have been reported on numerous sites in the last week. This release was entirely TIME not feature or quality driven, as is typical. Suspect SQL is no different.

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Alarming issues with VS2005:
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Posted by Anon-Y-mous (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
where has the promise gone? the top-down
approach is rather deceiving.. i mean this to
how it is being applied to the economy..

think amazon.. some organic companies filling
cloned e-commerce shoes can and most likely
would, appreciate acting out some old
behaviors.. but most concerning.. think of all
the computer heroes preoccupied with unnecessary

makes me want to run off to turkey and start an
open source donation-ware company! no.. no..
that was a nightmare that I had..
Posted by (47 comments )
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Seattle Times: Apple is stealing Market Share From Microsoft
Monday, November 7, 2005 - Page updated at 06:40 AM

Mac takes bite out of Windows
By Paul Andrews

Special to The Seattle Times

Hardly a week goes by that I don't hear from a friend or colleague with a monumental Windows problem.

I tell them I'm glad to help, on one condition: Next time they buy a computer, they agree to consider a Macintosh. A year ago, after a particularly trying week of spyware, adware, viral attacks, lock-ups and reboots, I changed my primary computer to a Mac. I've dabbled with Macs since the late 1980s but never felt a need to change from Windows.

For the first couple of months after the switch, while I transferred e-mail and contacts to Mac programs, I was firing up Windows almost daily. Gradually, though, I found fewer reasons to go back. It was a snap to export text and data files to the Mac, then convert them to Mac applications. And programs such as iTunes, iMovie, Safari and iPhoto, which came with the Powerbook, were easy to learn and use.

The exception was e-mail and contacts. There are ways to get the data from Windows to a Mac, but they're cumbersome and not always successful. Gradually, though, the important correspondents and contacts got into the Mac mail and address-book programs simply through daily use.

When I made the switch, I thought I was a relative rarity. After all, we're constantly reminded of the Windows desktop monopoly and how little market share Apple has.

But what I found surprised me. A lot of techies I know, including some former Micro-softies, have switched. Among holdouts, I kept hearing their next computer would be a Mac.

"There's huge awareness among the general public about how much [Windows] PCs have been compromised," said Tony Bove, author of a new book, "Just Say No To Microsoft" (No Starch Press, $24.95). "My mother knows about it, and she's not even a computer user."

Note that we're talking mostly about personal use, not corporate. Most newspaper reporters and other enterprise workers I know use Windows because their employers supply them with Windows.

Custom Windows applications also keep users from switching, Bove said. But he expects many apps will become Web-based over time, meaning any computer can access them.

How much switching is going on? Commenting on Microsoft's recent quarterly earnings report, some analysts speculated the Redmond giant might be losing market share to Apple.

If that's the case, it might be a historical first. I can't think of any time Apple stole share from Microsoft (as opposed to Apple users simply upgrading).

For now, anecdotal evidence suggests something is going on. Bove likes to tell Windows sufferers, "It's not your fault. But it is your problem."

The easiest fix is simply to change brands.

Seattle freelance writer Paul Andrews has written about technology for more than two decades. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
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