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Just imagine what the db landscape would have looked today if IBM in 2002 would have released single box (i.e. no replication) IDS 7.x as a free product, but still charging for replication and 9.x (and support, of course). Legions of programmers would have used it for all sorts of small jobs, and there would have been many capable Informix programmers and DBAs. Many small businesses would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for replication. We would not be talking about LAMP, but about PAIL. MySQL would cease to exist as a significant player, MS-SQL would have been marginalized (unless MS would have made it much better), and only two significant players in the mid range servers would remain: Oracle & IDS. DB2 would not have gained a significant foothold in mid level due to the popularity of IDS. In the high end IBM would have had two good offerings (DB2 and IDS) to compete with Oracle and other niche players.

 
Can IBM do this today? Probably. Today to gain the hearts of developers IBM would have to release a current version (but a non-replicated is probably adequate), which will grant all the Object capabilities. Then some marketing and word-of-mouth, and the small jobs and web site content frameworks will start migrating from MySQL, MS-SQL and Postgres to Informix. The more people will use it, the more they will see the efficiency of it. Medium-to-large businesses, which currently will not consider IDS because of lack of Informix-capable people and poor IDS market share, will gladly pay for a well-known, extremely efficient database if they knew it was easy to find people for it. Just the hardware and energy savings will more than pay for the software license. IBM will not get any revenue from small businesses anyway (they go with MySQL or MS-SQL) - if you give them IDS for free, you will build the foundation for general acceptance of IDS.

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