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Business Objects releases first post-acquisition product

Business Objects' third release of its XI business intelligence product includes pre-built integrations into SAP and other systems.

Business Objects today released the third enhancement to its XI business intelligence platform, its first enhancement since being acquired by SAP.

The release focuses on three major areas, according to Marge Breya, executive vice president, business intelligence platform with Business Objects. The enhanced product connects more people to corporate data, ensures access to that data and increases the deployment options.

"In coming together [with SAP], our mission is to look at how we can change the way people are working today by making sure we've got as many people as possible connected to as much information possible, as well as connecting it to our ecosystem," Breya said.

SAP acquired Business Objects in October for $6.8 billion to complement its BI product line. The acquisition was part of a wave of consolidation in the BI market, with Oracle purchasing Hyperion and IBM acquiring Cognos.

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While the current release had been in development before the acquisition took place, customers should still be pleased that Business Objects is integrating with not just SAP but other environments as well, according to John Hagerty, vice president and research fellow with Boston-based AMR Research.

"One of the things that's not necessarily a value prop for XI Release 3 itself is just that Business Objects will work with SAP and non-SAP systems," he said. "That's a concern a lot of companies had -- that their allegiance would turn to the SAP stack -- and that's not happened at this point. It will remain an independent platform."

Indeed, Business Objects has been building integrations into SAP for the last year and a half, according to Breya, including connectors to R/3, SAP BW and BAPI ABAP. Extending access to BI data for other applications was a theme with this release.

"We've continued to expand support for other applications as well, such as Oracle -- including Siebel -- JD Edwards and PeopleSoft," Breya said. "From a BI standpoint, you're only as good as the data you're able to cover."

The latest XI release also focuses on expanding access to BI applications throughout the organization, a trend in the market for several years. With its Polestar search application, Business Objects has built on its natural language search capabilities.

"One of the things BI has always been about is structured data, but it's never had access to the softer side -- emails, Web information, any text information in an organization today -- and that arguably dwarfs the structured data in an enterprise," Breya said.

The improved user interface is a significant step with this release, according to Hagerty.

"Some of the user interface, the rich client specifically, is available under the XI platform," he said. "There had been some disparity between the Web intelligence and desktop intelligence tools. Now there's functional parity."

Finally, Business Objects is expanding the deployment options for Release 3, offering the traditional on-premise method, hosted, appliance or on-demand. Business Objects currently has 90,000 on-demand subscribers, Breya said.

Despite the acquisition, Hagerty sees no reason for customers to hold back on a Business Objects investment if the need is there.

"If someone is a Business Objects customer, I don't see any issues for them moving forward with this," he said. "If someone is an SAP customer and wants to understand what role Business Objects will play, they are the ones that still need more information about what they should do, but I don't think you'll see people stand on the sidelines if the existing investments are there."

The release will be generally available this quarter.

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