At the DB Expo show in New York yesterday, Microsoft said it had more than doubled its SQL Server sales to over two million users, citing customer and developer demand. "Customers have told us that they prefer Microsoft SQL Server because its combination of enterprise functionality and ease of use delivers lower cost of ownership and quicker time to deployment," said Rich Tong, vice president of the desktop and business systems division.
Microsoft also quoted IDC market research giving SQL Server 57 percent of the NT 4.0 Server market by unit volume in 1995, ahead of Oracle (23 per cent) and Sybase (four per cent).
However, Andy Bellinger, UK product marketing manager at Sybase, said Microsoft's numbers didn't add up to much. "They're effectively buying customers," he said. "if they're in competition with any of the big three database vendors [Oracle, Informix or Sybase] on the NT platform, they almost just give it away because they can only play [the NT] space. If the database server is Unix they can't play the same rules but if it's a pure NT game they'll use their dominance ... they'll drop the price. In real terms, I don't see these figures as anywhere like real. They play the same tactics on Access licences: they quote some ridiculous number but the number in physical use is significantly lower because it ships as part of Office. It's' exactly like what they did with Internet Explorer; Netscape had a dominant share so Microsoft gave away IE."
Bellinger said that Microsoft's tactics wouldn't work in enterprise accounts. "Where you have a customer on one of the second-tier Unix platforms like Data General or in a green field site Microsoft are calling the shots, but they are not an enterprise supplier. If you call their support desk you will fail dismally. I can't think of one enterprise customer who has gone from Sybase to SQL Server on NT. All you need is one Unix environment in an enterprise and Microsoft falls down."
Bellinger addded that SCO's plan to offer UnixWare freely from mid-1997 will also cause problems for Microsoft. "It will allow IT managers to have a reasonable decision instead of a no-brainer. Managers will be forced into the same situation they had with IBM. It will be 'nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft' but do they want to move to a single supplier again?"