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Oracle Pumps Up Its Mobile Database With Grid Power

Oracle wants to grab a bigger piece of the mobile database market, which is expected to grow to $1.3 billion by 2008.

Oracle is extending the reach of its grid-computing software to manage mobile devices with the debut Monday of its Oracle Database Lite 10g mobile database software.

With the announcement, Oracle is upping the ante in the competition to capture mobile database users, a market that was worth $424.4 million in 2003 and is growing 24.2% a year, according to a November report by IDC mobile infrastructure analyst Stephen Drake. By 2008 the market is expected to be worth $1.3 billion, the report says.

By adopting Oracle Database Lite 10g and its grid technology, mobile devices can be managed by extensions of a computing grid rather than using specialized applications with mobile-management features built in, says Jacob Christfort, Oracle's VP of product development for voice and wireless.

Features of the new mobile database allow an administrator at a single Web-based console to download copies of Oracle Database Lite 10g to mobile devices. The Mobile Manager administrative software also can download mobile applications and data, and synchronize data between central databases and mobile devices. A Mobile Manager console can be used to delete sensitive data and applications from a mobile device that's lost or stolen by calling it when it's running within range of a wireless network. "A grid manager has the ability to lock down a mobile device," rendering it useless to an unauthorized user, Christfort says.

With the proliferation of wireless laptops, handheld devices, and other mobile systems, Oracle doesn't want to be left further behind by Sybase Inc. subsidiary iAnywhere, which carved out an early lead and now holds 73% of the mobile database market with its SQL Anywhere software, according to Gartner/Dataquest. Among 13 competitors, iAnywhere has been the market leader for the past three years, IDC's Drake says.

Chris Kleisath, iAnywhere's senior director of engineering, says the SQL Anywhere database offers the same options as the new Oracle product. Through its capabilities and the SQL Anywhere Studio development tools, a developer can build the same features into a mobile application. SQL Anywhere also has a centralized management console for securing data or shutting down specific applications if the application is designed to make use of such functionality, he said.

IAnywhere has a more mature product line, having entered the market in 1992, Drake says. Oracle debuted Oracle Lite in 1996. But Oracle's announcement represents a step forward from its 9i Lite database. The 10g version "makes use of some of that centralized grid system management," he says.

Oracle is competitively pricing its Oracle Lite 10g mobile system at $100 per user. SQL Anywhere is priced at $119 per user.

Asked to name Oracle Database Lite users, Christfort cited the Metropolitan Ambulance Service of Melbourne, Australia, and IPC-The Hospitalist Co., a private-practice physician network.

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