In 2001, IBM and Informix captured a combined 34.6% of worldwide new licence revenue from database management systems (DBMS), beating Oracle's 32.0%, Gartner said. In 2000, the totals were 33.7% for IBM-Informix and 34.1% for Oracle.
The market as a whole generated $8.8bn (£6bn) in revenue, growing just 1.4% from the previous year. By contrast, revenue climbed a brisk 10% between 1999 and 2000, Gartner said.
Most DBMS vendors saw single-digit or negative growth, although Microsoft was a notable exception, Gartner said. Microsoft saw revenue from new DBMS licences climb 17.8%, putting it in third place behind Oracle with 16.3% of the market. Sybase was fourth with 2.6%.
Oracle sought to downplay the numbers. The DBMS market includes all databases, including IBM's mainframe products and Microsoft Access, running on both Unix and Windows, noted Rene Bonvanie, vice-president of Oracle 9i marketing. In the Unix database market, worth about $3bn (£2.05bn), Gartner's results showed that Oracle retained its lead with 63.3%, compared with 24.7% for IBM-Informix, he noted.
Oracle has seen no evidence that customers are leaving for IBM and Microsoft, he said, repeating an assertion made repeatedly in the past year by Oracle's top executives. Instead, Oracle has suffered the most from the collapse of young Internet companies and telecommunication providers, which had driven its growth more than that of its rivals.
"What this research suggests is that Oracle is losing market share, and we have no proof whatsoever that that is happening," Bonvanie said.
He also criticised IBM's Informix acquisition, saying IBM spent $1bn (£680m) to boost its market share by three percentage points.
IBM was undeterred. "We're thrilled to have captured the lead from Oracle," said Jeff Jones, a director of strategy with IBM's data management group.
Even without the Informix acquisition, he noted, Gartner's figures showed IBM gaining ground against Oracle in the overall database market. Without Informix, IBM's share of DBMS revenue increased from 30.3% to 31.7%, while Oracle's slid from 34.1% to 32.0%.
"We came roaring up behind them even without the Informix acquisition," Jones said.
Still, Gartner made it clear that it was the Informix purchase that tipped the scales for IBM. "Without Informix, the contest would have been essentially tied between IBM and Oracle, which were separated by a mere $30m (£20.5m) in new licence revenue," the research firm said.
Gartner analysts were not immediately available to comment further on the figures.
Oracle was also surpassed in the Windows market, where Microsoft took the lead. With 39.9% of new licence revenue in that sector, up from 35.4% in 2000. Oracle saw its share slip from 38.1% in 2000 to 34% last year. The Windows database market as a whole was worth $2.55bn (£1.74bn), up 11% from 2000.