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Study: IBM edges Oracle in database field

Boosted by Informix, IBM surpasses Oracle as the top seller of database-management software, according to a new report. Says Oracle: "We don't see the erosion."

IBM has surpassed Oracle as the leading seller of database-management software, according to a new study.

IBM captured 34.6 percent of the revenue in the overall database market in 2001, up from 33.7 percent the previous year, according to study by Gartner Dataquest released Tuesday. As earlier reported, Oracle fell to second place with 32 percent of the market, down from 34.1 percent, while Microsoft remained in third place but saw its market share rise from 14 percent to 16.3 percent.

IBM's acquisition of Informix a year ago helped put Big Blue over the top, the study found. Informix databases owned 3 percent of the market. Without the acquisition, the race for the top spot would have been much tighter, with Oracle edging out IBM by 0.3 percent. Sybase ranked fourth, with 2.6 percent of the market.

The overall database market includes software for Unix and Windows operating systems, as well as for mainframe computers. Overall, IBM's DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 databases gained ground on Oracle's 9i database in all categories, while Oracle lost market share.

In the $3 billion Unix market in 2001, Oracle still held a commanding lead, with 63.3 percent, down from 66.2 percent the previous year. The combination of IBM and Informix reached 24.7 percent in 2001, up from 21.1 percent the previous year. Microsoft does not sell databases for Unix.

In the $2.5 billion Windows-based database market, Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 database topped Oracle with 39.9 percent of the market, up from 35.4 percent last year. Oracle was second with 34 percent, down from 38.1 percent. The combination of IBM and Informix grew from 19.9 percent to 20.7 percent.

In addition to the Gartner report, another research firm is expected to detail Oracle's slide. IDC will show that Oracle has lost market share to rivals IBM and Microsoft, when the research company releases a new study in the next few weeks, sources say.

IBM and Microsoft executives were ecstatic over the market share numbers. "We put a $1 billion investment in 1998 to boost sales and marketing, and another $1 billion to acquire Informix last year," IBM spokeswoman Lori Bosio said. "This has been a core focus of IBM's, and our commitment is paying off."

Oracle executives, however, tried to downplay the study.

"There's no signs of any one company leaving anyone in the dust," said Rene Bonvanie, vice president of Oracle 9i marketing, adding that the company will focus its efforts new growth markets, such as China. "We don't see the erosion. IBM is buying its way into the market."

Oracle under the gun
Over the past few years, Oracle has faced fierce competition from IBM and Microsoft in the database software market, which has remained fairly flat, growing only 1.4 percent to $8.8 billion in 2001. Database-management software is crucial for businesses and Web sites because it stores and retrieves vast amounts of data.

As rivals have encroached on its lead, Oracle in recent months has tried to revamp its customer service and polish its overall image among customers.

Oracle, like many other large software makers, has been troubled by weak sales. Besides slumping database-software revenue, sales of the company's business-application software also have slowed. In its most recent quarter, Oracle said that overall new license sales dropped 30 percent. Database software revenue--which constitutes nearly three-quarters of Oracle's overall business--slid by 23 percent, while sales of its business applications dropped 41 percent.

Last week, Wall Street analysts cut their estimates for Oracle's fourth-quarter and fiscal 2002 results, citing weak demand and competitive pressure from rivals that included IBM and Microsoft in the database market, and SAP, PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems in business applications.

Adding to Oracle's woes is a controversy over a $95 million sale the company made to the state of California. The state had brokered the deal without putting it up for competitive bidding.

Oracle's shares fell 21 cents Monday, closing at $8.22.

A survey of more than 500 Oracle customers, conducted in April by Morgan Stanley and the International Oracle User Group, found that while most customers believe that Oracle offers the best database software, only 6 percent of them said they had an immediate need to license new database software.

Delayed upgrades have also hurt Oracle's sales. More than 75 percent of companies using Oracle's lowest-priced database software plan to upgrade to a more expensive version, according to the Morgan Stanley survey. But only half of those companies plan to upgrade in the coming year.

Few customers see a need for Oracle's high-margin add-on products, such as its Real Application Clustering software, which lets companies add new servers when they need more database capacity. Only 1 percent of customers surveyed by Morgan Stanley saw an immediate need for the software. Thirty-four percent said that the add-on looked valuable, but that they didn't need it anytime soon.

And a long-standing perception that Oracle's prices are too high continues to dog the company. When asked why they would consider moving away from Oracle to a competitor's software, 43 percent of customers surveyed by Morgan Stanley said price was the No. 1 reason. Still, 57 percent of respondents said they would not consider moving away from Oracle's database software.

In an attempt to counter the perception that Oracle is losing market share, the company on Monday released results of a study showing that it has the largest penetration in Fortune 100 companies among database software makers. The study, conducted by research firm the FactPoint Group, found that 51 percent of Fortune 100 companies use Oracle as their primary database.'s Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.