Microsoft Launches Visual Studio, SQL Server 2005 'Application Platform'

At the official launch event in San Francisco Monday, Ballmer said the database, development tools and EAI platform -- combined with a common .NET programming model -- will enable customers and partners to connect applications, processes and systems together in unparalleled fashion.

Clad in suit and tie, Ballmer humbled himself before thousands of developers, acknowledging that the upgraded database -- the company's first release in five years -- was "a little bit long in the making."

SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 are shipping as of Nov. 7 and will be widely available in the channel in December.

Microsoft also officially announced the Community Technology Preview of BizTalk 2006, formerly code-named Pathfinder, and said the final product will ship during the first half of 2006. The company plans to include 16 new application and technology adapters for Oracle's database and applications, Peoplesoft, Siebel, SAP, Tibco, JDEdwards, IBM DB2 in the base product at no additional cost.

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"We're trying to give you tools to connect systems together in a way that allows better decisions to be made and for you to deliver faster results," Ballmer said. "It's not just Visual Studio, or .NET or SQL. When we think of our application platform, we're really thinking about a broader application platform moving into its next generation: SharePoint, Windows client, Office, Dynamics, development tools and management tools, all running on a foundation grounded in XML web services, industry standards and our own .NET innovations.

The Microsoft CEO said the platform gives customers and partners one common programming model, one management model, one business intelligence model and one security model upon which they can develop applications and web services for client, server applications, and for Internet services "in the cloud," referring to the Windows Live! And Office Live! services Microsoft announced last week.

As part of the debut of the long awaited platform, Microsoft product managers demonstrated the ability of Microsoft's forthcoming Office 12 and CRM 3.0 to reach into SQL Server 2005 and draw live data into their applications.

Ballmer said scalability has been Microsoft's biggest problem in the past but SQL Server 2005 erases the perception that its platform is not enterprise ready. "We've crossed a chasm," Ballmer said. "People understand that these are platforms for mission critical applications."

He also said the maturing and refinement of the .NET Framework and integration of .NET into the database engine will help customers aggregate business data into applications that will enable them to make more effective business decisions.

While detractors may view this as Microsoft's next generation lock-in strategy, analysts said Microsoft's application platform message Monday essentially plays catch up to what Oracle and IBM have been saying about their respective database-and-applications platforms for some time.

"In some ways, using the term platform is just marketing, and it's a term they want to take ownership of. I wished they had used it when WinFX and Indigo were being announced," said Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "Yet there's a lot of pent up demand for the scalability and enterprise class services in SQL Server 2005 and there will be a lot of DB2 and Oracle sites now willing to consider it."