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Business Objects Says It's Cracking Midmarket for BI

SME-oriented Edge Series hits version 3.0. Crystal Report Server gains Office integrations and central management console. Combined sales grow 18 percent.
Sales of Business Object's two core products for small- to midsize-enterprises (SMEs) are growing at a healthy rate of about 18 percent per year. So says Todd Rowe, who yesterday announced the release of upgrades of those very products: BusinessObjects Edge 3.0 and Crystal Report Server 2008.

"This is the most successful product launch in the company's history in terms of revenue growth," says Rowe, group vice president and general manager, volume business unit. "More than 6,000 customers have purchased these products... and we have an 18 percent growth rate."

Targeting companies with 100 to 1,000 employees and $100 million to $1 billion in revenue, Business Objects last year released Edge Series products in Standard, Professional and Premium editions. The Standard edition, which starts at $16,500 for five concurrent users, includes reporting, query and analysis capabilities while the Pro edition adds data integration tools and the Premium edition adds data integration and performance management capabilities.

The 3.0 upgrade of the Edge series adds support for BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and other J2ME 2.0-capable mobile devices (a list said to include the iPhone). It also adds support for building SAP "Rapid Marts," akin to the Oracle, JD Edwards and PeopleSoft marts already supported.

Business Objects' Edge Series builds on the 2003 acquisition of Crystal Decisions, which had some 30,000 customers of Crystal Reports and more than 2,300 integrator and reseller partners. Also announced yesterday was the release of Crystal Report Server 2008, an upgrade of the company's report management system that provides central control and security over report viewing, printing, scheduling, delivery and collaboration. The upgrade improves integration with Microsoft Office so that latest report updates can be automatically refreshed within Excel, Work and PowerPoint documents. In addition, a new central management console is said to ease system deployment and administration.

Business Objects SME offerings go head to head with the Microsoft BI portfolio, and the Crystal Report line is seen as particularly vulnerable to the Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, which are bundled with the database.

"A lot of customers talk about Reporting Services being free, but look at what you need to buy to get it and look at the professional services support costs and 'free' starts to look fairly expensive," counters Rowe. "In a bake off, we're very price competitive with the full cost of Reporting Services."

Microsoft's BI sales grew 15.6 percent to reach $555 million in 2007, while Business Objects grew 9.0 percent last year to reach just over $1 billion, according to the latest figures from IDC. Rowe declined to detail or break out Edge and Crystal Report Server sales, but he said the two products combined are growing 50 percent faster than the BusinessObjects XI platform for large enterprises, a market segment that has already widely implemented BI software.

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