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Crystallizing Intelligence Per Business Objects

Business Objects took the first steps in providing its business intelligence solutions via the Web.

The company just announced that users of its on-premise Crystal Reports solution can now upload reports to a dedicated site, set user preferences and permissions, and share business intelligence with users who typically don't have access to this type of report.

This is not much of a surprise, given that Business Objects has been closely integrated with offerings from Salesforce.com, a provider of customer relationship management on-demand software.

Authorized users can view current reports and snapshots of prior reports at crystalreports.com. Features include the ability to drill down for further information within the report and navigate easily within large reports.

This is not a typical software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, in that the Web site is intended for on-premise Crystal Reports licensees.

But this is just a first step.

"We built an infrastructure to do a lot more than just bring Crystal Reports on the Web," said James Thomas, director of product marketing for Business Objects.

According to analyst firm IDC, worldwide spending on SaaS stood at $4.2 billion in 2004, and should reach $10.7 billion by 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent.

Thomas said the company is well aware of that burgeoning demand and is priming itself to take advantage of it.

Heretofore, Business Objects has targeted Fortune 1000 and mid-market companies. Thomas said the company is now focusing on smaller companies, and this Web-based solution should help open those doors.

"All companies have the same needs for information," he said.

Thomas said that Business Objects is attempting to provide a solution that is accessible to companies who cannot afford a large investment in IT.

"We've really lowered the barriers for entry," he said.

Merrill Lynch analyst Edward Maguire wrote a note last week speculating that "Business Objects will be the first Business Intelligence vendor with a pure SaaS offering."

For the time being, the focus is on providing current customers with a low-cost option for increasing the number of people who have access to Crystal Reports.

According to Thomas, fewer than 15 percent of people in companies actually have direct access to business intelligence reports.

"Millions of Crystal Reports are sitting on people's desktops," he said.

Those reports don't do much good if they can't be readily shared with other members of the organization. Typically, reports are shared via e-mails and memos -- not exactly the most direct or secure method.

"We're looking at the other 85 percent who don't have access to this information," Thomas told internetnews.com.

There are two service plans for crystalreports.com: Basic Service Level and Premium Service Level.

Basic Service Level provides customers with access for 10 users for up to 60 reports, and is a complementary feature for Crystal Reports XI customers.

Premium Service Level provides customers with the ability to add additional users, provide User- and group-level security, and store more reports. Premium service is available for an introductory price of about $20 per user per month.

Basic is generally available now in North America, and Premium is expected to be generally available later this quarter.

Both service plans will be delivered globally during the second half of 2006.

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, said in a statement that his company is, "excited to see enterprise vendors like Business Objects move in this direction."

The Web solution is being hosted by OpSource, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that specializes in providing infrastructure for on-demand vendors.