Crystal Decisions: The Object Of VARs' Affection?

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"The partners have been looking for something like this for several years," said Paul Grill, CEO of InfoSol, a Phoenix-based Business Objects specialist. "They're putting together here a bundle that makes sense, with the best products bundled together at a very attractive price. When they are combined with additional vertical solutions, it will be an extremely interesting offering to the midmarket."

But some partners were taken aback by one potential stumbling block with the new software: its name. Business Objects has dubbed the new line Crystal Decisions, pressing back into service the name of the midmarket software developer it bought in 2003. The name frustrated partners, who will need to battle the perception that the new line is tied to Crystal Reports, the popular reporting application Business Objects inherited from Crystal Decisions. While reporting is part of the functionality the new Crystal Decisions line offers, it's a broader product that includes essentially all of the features in the enterprise Business Objects XI business intelligence platform.

"It is a shame that they had an opportunity here to create something new and exciting and they [made] such an obvious mistake with the naming," complained one reseller. Several other partners echoed his reservations about the naming. One partner praised the decision, hoping that Business Objects will be able to take advantage of Crystal Reports' ubiquity and strong reputation in the midmarket.

The new Crystal Decisions line is targeted at companies with less than $1 billon in annual revenue or fewer than 2,500 employees. The Standard Edition, shipping in 12 languages, carries a starting price tag of $20,000—a fraction of the cost of Business Objects' enterprise BI platform, even though Crystal Decisions is built off the same code base as its enterprise sibling. The new software has single-server licensing and fewer configuration options, but its functionality is unchanged from Business Objects XI, according to Business Objects executives and partners.

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Business Objects executives say they want partners to be the prime movers in serving midmarket customers. Compensation on the Crystal Decisions line will be channel-neutral for Business Objects' direct sales, and services for the line will be provided almost entirely by partners, said Todd Rowe, Business Objects' general manager of worldwide midmarket business. "Professional services in this market is the domain of partners, period," he said. Business Objects' midmarket push is part of an ongoin g organizational overhaul led by John Schwarz, who took over as the company's CEO in late 2005. Rowe joined Business Objects last year, and partners say he's taken the lead in getting the San Jose, Calif.-based company to take action on their longstanding requests for a more competitive midmarket product offering.