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Microsoft whiffs on tools, database betas

More roadbumps for the planned updates to SQL Server and Visual Studio, as second beta dates get pushed back again.

Microsoft has missed its deadline for sending out the latest test versions of its flagship development products, SQL Server and Visual Studio.

Last year, the company set a target of the end of March for the release of the second beta of its upcoming Visual Studio 2005 programming tool and SQL Server 2005 database. But it has yet to release those test versions.

The products are scheduled for completion in the second half of 2005 and are expected to be released in tandem. The target completion dates have shifted substantially over the past few years, and the software is likely to be delivered more than a year later than first anticipated.

Microsoft is holding off on releasing the latest betas to ensure the products are stable enough to build and run "production" applications, a company representative said on Friday. The representative declined to say when these "GoLive" beta releases will be made available.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company indicated that the final release dates of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon, had been put back when it announced pricing and packaging details last month. Microsoft had been saying that the products would ship in the summer, but changed the timing to the second half of the year.

Dragging out the final delivery could give Microsoft rivals an opportunity to displace SQL Server, said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research. The software, which is used to run business applications for enterprises such as healthcare providers, competes with IBM's DB2 and Oracle's namesake database.

"It is an impact to customers, because they've been planning for the Yukon release for many years," Yuhanna said. "Customers may have to look at other (databases) if Microsoft doesn't deliver on time."

The difficultly of closely integrating the database, development tool and the Windows Server operating system has contributed to the delays, he said. The last release of SQL Server was five years ago. Going forward, Microsoft is likely to have a shorter gap between database releases, Yuhanna said.