Oracle Takes on Salesforce, Expands Web Offerings

By Reuters -  |  Posted 2008-03-11 Print this article Print

New browser-based programs from Oracle can be customized to run on BlackBerrys and on personalized Google and Yahoo Web pages.

BOSTON (Reuters) - Oracle Corp said on Tuesday it has created Web-based software designed to help salespeople win more business, its latest attempt to overtake its smaller rival that leads in the field, Salesforce.com Inc.

The new programs from the world's No. 2 publicly held software company adds browser-based technologies and can be customized to run on Research in Motion Ltd's BlackBerry communications devices and on personalized Google Inc and Yahoo Inc Web pages.

Business users have requested those features because they have gotten comfortable using technology from companies like Google and Yahoo to do Web searches, buy goods over the Internet, get driving directions and handle myriad personal tasks, analysts said.

Now they want access to the same technology at work. The need for traditional software makers to embrace the use of Web-delivered software as a service and make their products look more like snazzy Facebook or Google Web sites was underscored when Salesforce.com won one of the biggest sales force automation software deals of 2007.

Salesforce.com beat out Oracle to provide software to 30,000 employees of Citigroup. Salesforce.com also has 25,000 Merrill Lynch & Co Inc subscribers.

"Certainly when you get into the Merrill Lynches of the world, Oracle wants to be there," said AMR Research analyst Rob Bois.

Other major software makers are also going after Salesforce.com's sweet spot.

Microsoft Corp, the world's largest software maker, introduced a trial version of CRM Dynamics Live last year and hopes to have the final product ready within a few months.

Germany's SAP AG, the No. 3 publicly held software maker, says its product will be out this summer.

The product from Oracle is easier to use than a previous version and is designed to run seamlessly with popular Web programs from companies including Google and Yahoo.

Oracle responded to a frequent demand from business users -- that software designed to run on BlackBerry devices and mobile phones be streamlined so that they don't have to spend a lot of time thumbing through tiny menus to get to useful information, said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research.

Some of the features borrow from the approaches that popular Web sites MySpace and Facebook use to connect people. In the case of Oracle's software, they use the features to help salespeople figure out how to best persuade potential clients to buy their products.

"I have a new lead. Now I can search for my network for people who have a connection to this person, for an expert who can help," Wettemann said.

"That was a wake-up call. They have come to a realization that there is money to be made from delivery of software as a service," said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research. He was not briefed by Oracle.

Oracle bought No. 1 customer relationship management software maker Siebel two years ago for almost $6 billion.

The new product, based on technology acquired in the deal, will drop the Siebel name and be called Oracle CRM On Demand. It is Oracle's 15th release of sales force automation software in 4-1/2 years.

Analysts have said Siebel software users have complained that they have had to enter large amounts of data into the programs, discouraging their use.

The new version does a better job of splitting up those tasks, so that each worker only enters data relevant to his or her job, the analysts said.

"This is focused on the personal productivity of the user, not the organization as a whole," said one of the analysts.

The social networking features alert workers when colleagues have ties to a sales prospect, or help them identify experts who might be able to help close a deal.

SAP, the world's biggest maker of business management software and one of Oracle's biggest rivals, announced similar features in its on-premise customer relationship management package late last year.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle, with additional reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi in Seattle; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved 


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