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Ted Kemp
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Enter Microsoft

Microsoft will take its foray into business intelligence as far as the market's revenue potential will lead it. That could be very far indeed.

Microsoft is serious about building integrated business intelligence functionality into SQL Server, with potentially landscape-altering consequences for the larger BI market.

News that Microsoft planned to enter the business intelligence space emerged quietly at first, but the company has slowly rounded out the breadth of its plans through a series of announcements this spring and summer.

In some areas of BI, at least, the market share horizon is already shifting. Reports have shown Microsoft's slice of the online analytical processing (OLAP) tools market growing, for instance, even as more traditional OLAP vendors like Hyperion and Cognos have watched their market share diminish moderately.

But relatively speaking, OLAP isn't a new area of business intelligence capability for the Giant of Redmond. More recently, Microsoft revealed plans to build reporting functionality directly into its SQL Server database, known as Yukon. This year's purchase of ActiveViews, a small vendor that specializes in ad hoc reporting, signaled an acceleration of those plans.

Other BI debuts, including analysis add-ons for SQL Server, have followed. And last week Microsoft tipped its BI cards and little more. The company plans pre-built templates for commonly used reports, a self-service tool for building reports without the help of techs, and a product for integrating information into SQL Server from non-persistent data sources.

Microsoft's BI initiatives are designed to help it keep pace with big rivals like Oracle and especially IBM, both of which have taken steps to incorporate database and business intelligence technology. As for what impact those moves will have on the smaller BI vendors, only time will tell. What's certain is that Microsoft and the big database makers will take their foray into business intelligence as far as the market's revenue potential will lead them. With so much growth in the BI market, that could be very far indeed.

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