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Microsoft names SQL Server price

The software giant finally gets down to the nitty-gritty of pricing and packaging for the software, expected to debut next week.

Microsoft has been touting new features of its new SQL Server 7.0 database for months. Today, the company finally got down to the nitty-gritty of pricing and packaging for the software, expected to debut next week.

While the updated database includes a raft of new features, Microsoft has not raised list prices from the current version, SQL Server 6.5.

The most prominent addition is the inclusion of data warehousing support through OLAP Services, a new component of SQL Server. Also new are additional data transformation services for data warehousing applications, a new mobile version for connecting laptops and other mobile systems to corporate databases, and overall improvements in performance, according to Microsoft.

SQL Server 7.0 will ship in three configurations, Microsoft said. Like the current 6.5 version, SQL Server 7.0 database will be offered in standard and enterprise versions. New is a mobile edition, which is shipped as part of the standard and enterprise versions.

Analysts expect SQL Server 7.0 to help Microsoft attack the low end of the database market, and give the company a good chance of capturing some of the marketshare currently controlled by database market leader Oracle. Other makers, including IBM, Sybase, and Informix Software are expected to face additional pricing pressure as a result of the SQL Server 7.0 launch.

Rumors persist that Oracle--which does not publish its list prices--will be forced to lower database prices, or to cut more deals with customers, in the wake of SQL Server 7.0's launch. Analysts said Oracle's database prices are generally much higher than Microsoft's.

Last week, Oracle president Ray Lane told CNET News.Com that the company was not planning any price cuts, and that Oracle still controls a greater share of the Windows database server market than Microsoft. But he said increased competition from Microsoft could force additional concessions in the low-end of the market.

Today, Oracle product managers amplified Lane's comments. "We are not going to disclose any pricing changes prematurely but our tiered pricing plan is proving to be sufficient," said Dave Menninger, vice president of OLAP product marketing at Oracle.

"You move prices to increase your marketshare. Our share is already moving up so we don't have to react at this point [to Microsoft]. We are in the driver's seat. We pick our price points," said Menninger.

The addition of data warehousing features to SQL Server 7.0 may help the company establish a leadership position in the OLAP and business intelligence markets.

The data warehousing features are prominently mentioned by Microsoft in press materials distributed today.

The standard edition of SQL Server 7.0 is aimed at departmental and workgroup applications, and includes full replication services, data transformation services, OLAP Services, and Microsoft's Meta Data Repository 2.0, for storing detailed application information. Standard edition list prices start at $1,399 for a 5-user license; $1,999 for a 10-user system; and $3,999 for a 25-user license.

The enterprise version adds support for large, terabyte-scale databases, through Microsoft's Cluster Services, partitioning for OLAP Services, support for symmetric multiprocessing servers with more than four processors, and support for Extended Memory Architecture. Prices start at $7,999 for a 25-user license; $10,999 for 50 users; and $28,999 for a 250-user system.

The new mobile version, SQL Server Desktop, ships as part of the standard and enterprise editions. Companies that wish to deploy the desktop version must purchase a per-seat client access license from Microsoft.

Microsoft also announced a special license for deploying SQL Server as part of a public Web site application. The SQL Internet Connector provides unlimited-user access and is priced at $2,999 per server processor. The license eliminates the need to count and license each user accessing a SQL Server database.

Microsoft also announced a special promotion to tempt those using competing database products. The company is offering SQL Server 7.0 at $99 per user for a limited 99-day time period to users of non-Microsoft database software.

Randy Weston and Tim Clark contributed to this story.