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Larry Ellison's pet project, NetLedger, launched its much vaunted NetSuite application package yesterday but it came without the punch. There's no Oracle. It's a bold move from the firm and one that almost guarantees it a more volatile future.

NetSuite is the small business application suite, for CRM and basic ERP, from NetLedger the firm. In terms of products from NetLedger, this is, arguably, the second one. It's first was the Oracle Small Business Suite - a package of productivity tools for the SME. It was bequeathed the 'Oracle' tag by its Chairman - Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle.

It's a strange set-up but one that has worked to good effect. Oracle Small Business Suite has won a great deal of praise and, apparently, some good customers. When combined with its earlier products, the considerably more low-key NetLedger accounting package and Net CRM, a basic sales automation tool, it adds up to a pretty powerful package - and it's all delivered online. You plug, pay and play with NetLedger making this addition quite a weapon against that other old Oracle boy Marc Benioff and his Salesforce.com.

In terms of deliverables - what you get for your money - NetSuite isn't a bad option if you need slimmed down, next minute delivery of a basic ERP system. It has accounting packages, payroll, CRM (which is at it's core), inventory management, marketing. All you need, and probably much more, to run a medium sized firm. It's aimed at firms with less than 500 employees and will cost around $4,800 to kick things off with a further $50 per year per seat. It's pretty attractive when you consider that you won't have any consulting fees on top of that, or no huge ones at least.

Looking at the composition of NetSuite it's quite a market shaker. It's not only Salesforce.com that will notice this package in its rear-view mirror, Sage, Microsoft and a raft of others will take notice of this release. They'll have to too, it's gunning straight for their territory. Sage, which has made considerable strides into the US of late under its Best Software moniker, can do without any more competition at present. Similarly Microsoft will be none too pleased with the intervention of this Ellison-backed upstart.

Does that mean it will have any success? Debatable. Presumably there's a reasonable installed base of Oracle Small Business Suite users that can be upgraded with the temptation of extra functionality - NetLedger claims to have in excess of 5,000 customers. But, presumably, sales will be sorely dented by the lack of the Oracle designer label. That will have opened plenty of doors for the firm and, with a move upstairs from the small business to the mid-market, that Enterprise class brand would have given it a much welcomed boost.

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