Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Microsoft on Thursday said that Oracle has pledged to make its database software work better with Microsoft's development tools.
The companies said that Oracle has joined Microsoft's Visual Studio partner program and that later this year it will release a free software download for Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net 2003 development tools.
The software download will make it easier to write Windows-based applications that access data stored in an Oracle database, said Prem Kumar, a vice president in Oracle's server technology division.
Developers have been using Visual Studio for years to build software that accesses Oracle databases. But "the process of writing code is still too laborious," Kumar said. "We're trying to build integration points so that it is seamless."
The software download will make that process easier by enabling developers to access data stored in Oracle database tables and to debug database applications from within Visual Studio, said Nick Abbott, a product manager at Microsoft. The deal makes "Oracle databases a first-class citizen" for Visual Studio developers, he said.
The agreement is the latest in a string of technology-integration announcements from Microsoft. The company signed a deal last week with SAP to . And earlier this year, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems to work on making their products interoperable.
"Microsoft is partnering with lots of people that they have not partnered with in the past," Abbott said. "There has been a lot of demand for tighter integration with our development tools. It's driven a lot by customer push."
The spate of partnership deals is a sign that big technology makers realize that integration is a strong selling point. Large customers want their technology providers to work out integration kinks, so they don't have to.
"We want the technology companies to compete like crazy on innovations in their products and in their architectures," said Richard Taggart, the director of enterprise technology architecture integration at General Motors. "But where their technologies meet other companies' (technologies), that's where we want it to be absolutely seamless," he said.
Products from both Oracle and Microsoft are used extensively in businesses both large and small. Oracle leads the market for database software, while Microsoft's Windows operating system runs on more than 90 percent of the world's PCs.
The deal is unlikely to affect competition between the companies. Microsoft sells its own database, called SQL Server, which has in recent years gained market share at Oracle's expense. And Oracle sells its own development tools that support Java, a rival architecture to Microsoft's .Net model.
Kumar said that he doesn't expect the integration deal to affect the balance of power in that market. "I have no concern that (the deal) will slow sales of Oracle's development tools. Customers have already made the decision between .Net and Java," he said.
The software download will be available in a test version by year's end, Kumar said. A final version will be available from the Web site in the first quarter of next year, he said.