Yes, I know. This column is about SQL Server, not about the Microsoft antitrust suit. I promise not to harp on the "freedom-to-innovate" theme I brought up last month, but I can't help pointing out the irony of a recent Oracle press release titled "Oracle Radically Simplifies Product Line, Pricing, and Support—Many More Options Now Included in Standard Products for No Additional Cost."

You can read the entire announcement at http://www.oracle.com/corporate/press/index.html?229558.html, but the following statements, taken word for word from the announcement, should be self-explanatory:

  • Oracle announced that it was simplifying its entire product line by eliminating virtually half the products offered on its price list. These products will now generally be included at no additional cost as standard features of core Oracle products.
  • The goal of these changes is to make doing business with Oracle much easier than ever by offering products that are easier to own, easier to configure, easier to implement, and easier to deploy.
  • Gary Bloom, Oracle executive vice president, says: "For reasons of quality and service, we are repackaging and simplifying our products. . . . This change allows us to provide our customers greater value than ever before, by providing greater functionality at lower cost and with less complexity."
  • Product Simplification Eliminates Support, Maintenance, and Deployment Headaches—Customers benefit from the new pricing and packaging not only because it makes doing business with Oracle simpler, but also because it helps provide better product quality and customer service.
  • This will make support significantly easier, since there will no longer be any guesswork involved in determining whether all servers have the same software installed.
  • In the past, different implementations might not have included the same optional products and technology, forcing a developer to guarantee that all the software needed for a given application was on every server. Variations between different implementations could in fact be quite complex. Developers will now be able to take standardized implementations for granted that will include everything needed to run their applications at any customer or corporate site.

I think Oracle's changes are great news for its customers and agree with every point the company makes. But, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was reading some bizarre Kafkaesque IT novel. Is it just me, or could those bullets have been taken almost verbatim from the arguments Microsoft recently made in defense of its product-bundling strategies? Of course, the press release doesn't mention that this simplification and integration mirrors Microsoft's product-bundling strategies, about which Oracle aggressively lobbied the Department of Justice (DOJ). With Oracle's seemingly abrupt 180-degree turnaround in philosophy of "what's good for the customer," maybe Microsoft's best chance to win on appeal is simply to have an Oracle public relations person testify.

P.S. You've probably heard that XML is supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread in the world of data interoperability. But have you started experimenting with SQL Server's XML support? If so, take a second to fill out Microsoft's Product Support Services "SQL Server XML Usage Survey" at http://survey.esurvey.com/ms_xml_survey/xmlsurvey.asp. Microsoft can use this information to ensure that it's building what we really need, rather than what it thinks we need.