Microsoft has released SQL Server 2005, its first upgrade of the database software in five years.

Also released were Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft's package of tools for software developers, and a new beta version of BizTalk Server 2006, due for a formal release next year.

The launch marks a change in the company's image from being focused on the desktop and client into the "richness of capabilities in our enterprise products", according to Microsoft managing director Alistair Baker.

The updated SQL server will put it in direct competition with Oracle and IBM. While Microsoft sells more databases than IBM and Oracle combined, it has had only about 20 percent of revenue in that market because of the "glass ceiling" of capabilities inside of its database, the company said.

As a sweetener, Microsoft is offering a 50 percent discount for those businesses currently using an Oracle database and want to try the enterprise edition of SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft is also offering free "express" editions of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 for download, waiving a $49 fee for those editions during the launch phase of the products.

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