PC Week has discovered that the technology underlying the nextServer 7. version of Microsoft's desktop database product Access is identical to that of SQL Server.
Rivals fear that Microsoft may try to replace Access, a component of Office, with a version of SQL Server 7, or that it intends to bundle SQL Server into the desktop Office suite. Informix has already reacted with a scheme to give its product away free.
Microsoft denied any bundling plans but confirmed that Jet Engine, the basis of Access, which has compatibility problems with server side databases, will be exchanged for the SQL Server engine, which is server-compatible.
The move opens the possibility of ties between Microsoft's hugely popular Office suite and its database product.
Microsoft is also building into SQL Server 7.0 many features which tie in closely to the company's Excel spreadsheet, a key component of Office.
Interoperability with Office, the world's best-selling desktop package, is likely to help sales of the standard version and enterprise versions of SQL Server when the product family is eventually launched.
Access was originally billed as a database on its inception but few regard it as more than a "file system with no migration path", reported Andy Ballinger, UK product marketing manager for tools at Sybase.
The close tie-in with the desk-top should also help Microsoft in its quest for ISVs (independent software vendors) and application vendors, which Microsoft wants to embed SQL Server within their products.
Rivals have already clocked Microsoft's advance into the lucrative database market and in what some believe to be a panic move, Informix announced that it would give its $75,000 (#46,012) NT database away free to application developers.
The initiative will be tried out in the US for a month before being brought over to the UK, said Terry Lawlor, UK marketing manager at Informix.
Microsoft is also planning a workstation version of SQL Server, pitched at developers, and is believed to be working on a small footprint version for mobile users. The company is aiming to launch SQL Server 7 later this year.
The US Department of Justice has been made aware of the facts outlined here.
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