In a little-noticed announcement last November, SAP and Sybase inked a deal that said more about success and failure in the enterprise software market than many realize.
The deal, in which Sybase's database will support SAP's mid-market Business One software, may not by itself be the most earth-shattering event. But history behind this deal tells a cautionary tale about opportunity lost, and lost again. And about how much SAP and Microsoft are squaring off in a battle for the mid-market enterprise.
Way back in the late 1980s, a little start-up called Sybase made an enormous and costly mistake. Microsoft, which at the time was just starting to extend its vision beyond Windows and what would eventually be called Office, was looking for a relational database. Sybase, already fighting a growing Oracle juggernaut, was looking for an ally and a marketing coup. A deal was struck -- Sybase would license a desktop version of its SQL Server database to Microsoft. Sybase would get a volume market and a powerful ally, and Microsoft would get a relational database that many thought had little chance for relevance as a desktop system.
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