Microsoft joins database rivals Oracle, IBM, Sybase and Informix in the growing market for mobile databases as demand surges for handheld electronic devices.
A mobile database is technology that stores and collects information. It allows employees using handhelds to link to their corporate networks, download data, work offline, and then connect to the network again to sync their work.
Oracle, IBM, Sybase and Informix came out with their mobile databases more than a year before Microsoft, but analysts say the market is still nascent enough for the giant software company to compete.
"It's not that late because it's still a slowly maturing market," said Gartner analyst Jon Rubin. "The shakeout hasn't happened yet, so they're entering the market in plenty of time."
Microsoft executives said they're targeting the product to businesses that have a lot of mobile workers, such as delivery people, sales managers and even doctors.
With a mobile database built into a handheld device, a package-delivery worker can collect signatures after each delivery and send the information to a corporate database at day's end, for instance. A doctor with a handheld device can roam around a hospital and immediately pull up patients' health data.
"You can replace the clipboard," said Microsoft senior vice president Paul Flessner.
Microsoft's database for handhelds, in the works for about a year and a half, joins a previously released database for laptop computers. It is compatible with other versions of Microsoft's SQL Server databases and supports Microsoft's Visual Basic and C++ software development tools.