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Microsoft Takes On RFID Data Management

Senior VP Flessner calls making RFID available inexpensively and plentifully from a Windows perspective a "super-important play."
Microsoft plans to ship the next version of its database and development tools in early November, and it's working on software to manage radio-frequency identification data that's due next year.

Senior VP Paul Flessner said Tuesday at Microsoft's TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla., that SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 will ship the week of Nov. 7. The company is also working on software for use with Windows and SQL Server it says could smooth out problems companies are having loading data from RFID tags into databases, and making that data available to workers.

"We're going to make sure RFID is available very inexpensively and plentifully from a Windows perspective," said Flessner in a speech at the conference. RFID tags in manufacturing and remote data-scanning sensors used in science, shipping, and commercial construction are forecast to generate reams of new data in coming years. "This is a super-important play for us," he said.

In an interview, Flessner said companies are looking for database, development tools, and workflow software that can coordinate the functions of their applications to "match the chaos of the real business world." Mergers, acquisitions, and investments mean more systems need to be connected to one another. To that end, Microsoft said today that the "reporting services" business-intelligence functions of SQL Server 2005 now will be available in all editions--including lower-cost Express and Workgroup editions. Previously, that feature had only been planned for inclusion in the Standard and Enterprise versions of the database software. A "report builder" for end users will now be included in the Workgroup edition as well as higher-end versions. Microsoft also released the first public pre-release version of SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft managers say they haven't yet decided how they'll ship the RFID software under development. But Flessner says the technology is important for companies involved in inventory management, shipping, and distribution. RFID tag readers speak a variety of technical protocols, and industry standards haven't taken widespread hold, he says. Microsoft is developing a device driver, programming object model and APIs, and plans to include in its BizTalk product the ability to write programs that can direct "the massive flow of RFID data" coming into companies.