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Gartner: 2001, Not 2000, Was SQL Server's Year

Analysts at Gartner revised figures that showed that SQL Server had finally overtaken Oracle as the top-selling database on the Windows server platform in 2000. Turns out SQL Server didn't topple Oracle on Microsoft's own OS platform until 2001, Gartner says now.

"When we did the numbers last year, we attributed about $60 million too much [in revenues to Microsoft]," says Gartner analyst Colleen Graham. The new Gartner revenue estimate for SQL Server in 2000 is $814 million.

No matter how much science and statistics go into the reports at the big research houses, the reports are always, by necessity, partly art. For example, to extrapolate Microsoft's database revenues, Gartner has to make assumptions based on one line item called "Enterprise Software and Services" in Microsoft's Securities and Exchange Commission filings. That line item also includes Exchange and roughly a dozen other sources of revenues.

Gartner recalculates the previous two years as it prepares each annual market share report, so the adjustment to SQL Server's market position only occurred in the last few months as Gartner prepared the current report. Gartner published the new 2001 research on Monday.

"Every report that we publish supercedes the prior year's report" because it is based on the most up-to-date data, Graham says.

Last year, Gartner said SQL Server took 38 percent market share on the Windows server platform in 2000, compared to 37.3 percent for Oracle Corp., which until that point had been No. 1 on Microsoft's server OS.

The revised figures show Oracle had 38.1 percent market share in 2000 compared with Microsoft's 35.4 percent.

The 2001 numbers from Gartner, released this week, show Microsoft's SQL Server pulling ahead of Oracle's database in new license revenues in a more authoritative fashion than the original 2000 numbers did. According to Gartner, Microsoft had 39.9 percent share on the Windows server platform in 2001, compared with Oracle's 34 percent.

Moreover, Gartner's figures show Microsoft on the upswing, growing its revenues 25 percent in 2001 to more than $1 billion, while Oracle revenues dropped 1 percent on the Windows server platform in 2001. In 2000, both databases were growing quickly on the Windows platform.

Oracle CFO Jeff Henley blasted the Gartner results in a statement, which was largely aimed at IBM, as Oracle fell from the No. 1 database software revenue market position across all platforms in 2000 to No. 2 behind IBM in 2001. Microsoft is a distant No. 3, but those three vendors account for 83 percent of all new database software licenses, according to Gartner. One of Henley's criticisms dealt with the difficulty analysts have in interpreting Microsoft's and IBM's numbers.

"Oracle is challenging IBM and Microsoft to provide the industry analyst firms with audited numbers so that a fair and accurate comparison can be made," Henley said in a statement.

Sheryl Tullis, product manager for SQL Server at Microsoft, countered that Microsoft's SEC filings are good enough for the SEC and its shareholders, and that Microsoft does work with Gartner. "We believe in general that Gartner's numbers are close," Tullis says.

"[Oracle is] lashing out at the Gartner results to take the attention away from their declines," Tullis says.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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