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Microsoft Sets Sights on Oracle

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the launch of his company's long-delayed new database product Monday, touting its ability to serve large and small customers alike and to integrate with the software behemoth's other flagship products.

In his speech at the Moscone Convention Center, Ballmer wasn't shy about his wish that the new offering will steal business away from database giant Oracle (ORCL - Get Report).

"Today we should be able to convince you no job is too big to run on Microsoft," said Ballmer, who apologized for a packing snafu that resulted in him wearing a dark suit and red tie -- a fashion faux pas, given that the event also featured the launch of Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 tools for typically dressed-down developers.

Over and over again, Ballmer stressed the ability of Microsoft's database to serve large customers and mission-critical applications -- a sweet spot for Oracle and an area that some analysts have doubted that Microsoft could penetrate. Microsoft cited Barnes & Noble (BKS) booksellers using the SQL Server database to create a massive inventory database, and British music retailer HMV using it to help create an online music store.

Microsoft promised the ability to process more transactions per second with its platform than with one using Oracle and Linux. In addition, Microsoft launched a campaign with SAP (SAP - Get Report) to take market share away from Oracle -- something that is now even more in the German applications giant's interest, since Oracle acquired PeopleSoft to become a even bigger presence in SAP's market.

As evidence of its ability to serve a major enterprise, Microsoft noted an implementation of SAP applications on a Microsoft SQL Server database with 93,000 concurrent users. More than 20,000 customers run SAP applications on top of SQL Server, Ballmer said.

Meanwhile, Ballmer emphasized Microsoft's partners on the hardware side with a cameo from Intel (INTC - Get Report) CEO Paul Otellini, who showed off servers running SQL Server from manufacturers such as Hitachi and Dell (DELL - Get Report).

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