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11/16/2005
02:11 PM
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RightNow Makes Play For Siebel Customers

On-Demand CRM application provider offers six months of free service to Siebel defectors as Oracle acquisition draws closer

Sensing that Siebel Systems Inc. customers might be ready to defect, the list of companies offering deals for Siebel users as it's swallowed up by Oracle continues to grow. The latest is on-demand customer-relationship-management vendor RightNow Technologies Inc., which on Wednesday said it would give six months of free service to any Siebel customer that switches to RightNow's technology.

RightNow's offer follows similar moves to take advantage of the uncertainty revolving around Siebel. A month after the acquisition announcement in September, SAP swooped in with a "safe passage" offer to Siebel customers offering up to a 75% credit for their original Siebel licensing fees against comparable licenses purchases from the German software maker. That move came two weeks after Oracle itself issued a "lifetime support" pledgeto customers acquired in its purchases of JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. Earlier, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff looked to attract a different Siebel constituency, offering a $5,000 bonus for any former Siebel employee he hired.

Beagle Research Group analyst Denis Pombriant says there's little chance any serious Siebel customers will be enticed by offers such as RightNow's, but he's not surprised that rivals are trying to capitalize during the brief period in which Siebel is operating as a lame-duck company. "Everybody's trying to pile on," says Pombriant. "It's due to the fact that Siebel has the biggest footprint in the industry."

But the window will close fast, especially after the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that its review of the Oracle-Siebel deal didn't raise any antitrust concerns, removing the biggest potential barrier to the deal, which is expected to close early next year.

Whereas most on-demand CRM vendors--Salesforce.com included--have found small and mid-size businesses to be their bread and butter, RightNow says it has had more success than its rivals in attracting large corporations, claiming that more than half its business now comes from companies with at least $1 billion a year in revenue. Of course, as Pombriant notes, "A billion dollars ain't what it used to be."

Still, even before its six-month offer, RightNow has had some luck converting sizable Siebel customers of late. On Wednesday, it announced that satellite service provider Intelsat had decided to make the switch, and earlier this year, Elmar Window Fashions and medical documentation firm Briggs Corp. also jumped from Siebel to RightNow.

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