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IBM And Borland Team To Take On Microsoft

Borland's C# Builder packages will now ship with IBM's DB2 Universal Database System, while IBM will include C# Builder with all DB2 shipments.

IBM wants to confront Microsoft in one of its strongholds: small and midsize businesses. To do so, it's teaming with Borland Corp., beginning Thursday, to put its DB2 database system into the hands of C# developers.

C# is Microsoft's Java-like language that serves as the cornerstone of its .Net strategy. Both Microsoft and Borland produce integrated development environments based on C#. Henceforth, all of Borland's C# Builder packages shipped will contain a developer's copy of DB2 Universal Database system.

Likewise, IBM will include Borland's C# Builder with each copy of DB2 that it ships. Although typically thought of as a large IT shop and mainframe database system, IBM earlier this year brought out a version preconfigured for low-end, two-processor Intel servers with a starting price of $624. When licensed for 50 users at an additional $124 per user, the bill comes to $6,284--or about $1,500 less than a similar version of Microsoft's SQL Server, says Jeff Jones, director of strategy for IBM DB2 information-management software.

The packaging of DB2 with C# Builder amounts to more than placing the two disks of software in the same box, says Simon Thornhill, general manager of Microsoft .Net products at Borland. The Borland toolset "has the necessary functionality, the specific drivers, for C# developers to use to access data in DB2," he says.

Developers can use the C# Builder visual-development environment to access, manipulate, and store data in DB2, given the way the two products have been optimized to work with each other. The toolset provides similar functionality for SQL Server. The move puts the two databases on more of an equal footing as C# developers proceed with their tasks, Thornhill says.

IBM and Borland are making the move at a time when surveys show C# taking hold among a larger group of developers. Developers using Microsoft's Visual Basic remain the largest group of programmers in the world, estimated at 3 million, says Jones. While Sun Microsystems' Java remains the fastest-growing programming language, it still hasn't overtaken that figure, he concedes.

Evans Data Corp. found that 52% of 600 North American developers it contacted in its March/April survey said they were Visual Basic users. About 33% of the 600 plan to adopt the new version of Visual Basic over the coming year; 22% plan to move away from Visual Basic; and 17% of the total plan to move to C#, according to the survey.

In its effort to hold Visual Basic developers in the Microsoft fold, Microsoft "appears to be making headway," with a rapid uptake of both the new object-oriented Visual Basic .Net and C#, says Esther Schindler, a senior analyst at Evans Data.

"We'd like to grab that audience," says IBM's Jones. "It's inappropriate from our view that there's no choice of database use with C#. There is another database in addition to SQL Server."

Borland's C# Builder is priced at $69 for a personal edition; $999 for professional; $1,799 for enterprise; and $2,999 for the architect edition.

IBM is making a concerted push into the small and midsize business market, where IT spending is increasing faster than among large businesses, says Buell Duncan, IBM's general manager of developer relations. It plans to do so not only by the C# Builder partnership with Borland but through agreements with developers of applications for small and midsize business.

Applications serving supply chain, enterprise resource planning, customer-relationship management and other needs may be built with a combination of IBM databases and middleware by developers using Microsoft C#.

Says Duncan, "We think one of the reasons for our momentum in the midsize market is our decision to partner."

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