Business Objects' Latest Release Fully Integrates Crystal Platform

Called BusinessObjects XI--with the name serving double duty as both 'Extreme Insight' and the number 11--the application is based largely on the services-oriented architecture framework of Crystal Enterprise 10 and the query and analysis strengths of Business Objects. The XI version brings several new features as well as enhancements to the previous versions.

"Because this is the culmination of the acquisition, [BusinessObjects] XI helps us bring the best of both worlds to existing customers and introduce it to new projects," said Darren Cunningham, Business Objects' director of data integration product marketing, who works out of the Paris-based vendor's U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif. "There's been a lot of anticipation for this release. That's why it has been fully tested. Our beta had more than 100 customers and partners testing it, and we ran several internal blitzes to hammer away at it."

One new feature in XI is BI Encyclopedia. Embedded directly in reports, the BI Encyclopedia defines the terms and questions the report answers. It also displays other reports with related information.

Enhancements brought by XI include dramatically beefed-up integration with Microsoft Office applications. For example, users can publish and save data between Microsoft PowerPoint documents and XI, and then they can manage and query that data within the business intelligence application. The application has been Microsoft Data Center-certified.

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Because it's server-based, XI lets customers add threaded discussions, annotate analysis and share insights into the data. What's more, the SOA framework enables partners to carve out business intelligence functions and then plug the composite applications they create into customers' existing systems.

"The release gets Business Objects back in the game and materially improves competitive positioning," said Merrill Lynch analyst Edward Maguire in a report. The financial world is taking an interest in XI because the application gives Business Objects a modern weapon against its chief rivals, notably Cognos.

"We took a lot of shots when we announced our acquisition. Our competitors had a field day," Cunningham said. "But a lot of our competitors are trying to rearchitect business intelligence, whether as a stand-alone tool or as something you plug into other applications. We're now ahead of the game."