Oracle Corp is becoming the latest of the database brands to officially unleash a free version of its software. Since it first announced a preview release last fall, Oracle Database XE, which stands for Extended Edition, Oracle counts downloads in the six figures.
Built on the same code base as Oracle Database 10g Release 2, XE bundles support of development environments like Visual Studio.NET 2003. It also supports stored procedures written in the Microsoft Common Language Runtime (CLR). XE provides similar support for Java and PHP.
Additionally, XE introduces a new version of the declarative development environment App Express, which was formerly known as HTML DB. Meant for non-programmers, it provides a browser-based, GUI-driven approach to developing simple applications against the XE database without the need for coding or scripting.
It would be interesting if Oracle could extend similar declarative support to development of Ajax-style rich clients.
Like the free versions of IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, the Oracle free database is intended as a stepping stone to the real thing. It is available for free download now.