Business Objects makes Crystal Decisions

Product line merger clear as, well, crystal

cable

Business Objects completed its acquisition of Crystal Decisions in December. That was the easy bit, writes Bloor Research analyst Philip Howard.

Now comes the hard part - the actual merger of the two organisations and the two product lines. Business Objects has done well with Acta, but Crystal Decisions is an altogether bigger mouthful and the jury will not be returning its verdict for some time.

In fact, Business Objects has set out a two-year roadmap for product integration, which went up on the company's web site in January but is actually only being launched around now.

The basic idea is that there will be some integration between the two product sets with the next release of BusinessObjects - version 6.5 - integrating with Crystal 10, which was released in January. As 6.5 covers the whole product suite, the timing of 6.5 is not a single point-in-time. For example, Data Integrator 6.5 is already available for Windows and it will be available on other platforms later this month. Most of 6.5, however, will be in Q2.

So far, so straightforward. The next major release, however, slated for the end of this year, will come as something of shock: Crystal 10 will become BusinessObjects 11 and, a year later, BusinessObjects 12. BusinessObjects users, on the other hand, may upgrade to BusinessObjects 11 or they may upgrade to BusinessObjects 6.x, which will be available in about a year's time. Then they can migrate to BusinessObjects 12.

Confused? Actually, it is quite simple. Having canvassed its customer base, Business Objects feels the most important thing it can do is to focus on back-end integration, rather than making the products look the same. That they can do later. So - and this is the big surprise - the combined product set will be based on the Crystal infrastructure and not that of Business Objects.

In other words, it will be much easier for people to migrate to BusinessObjects from Crystal environments than from the existing BusinessObjects environment, which is why two different migration paths will be offered to the latter. In fact, the company feels that the move to BusinessObjects 11 will be most suitable for newer Web-based users, whereas most of the traditional customer base will wait for BusinessObjects 12.

How clever is this? It should certainly keep all the Crystal Decisions users, other than a few OEMs that happen to be competitors of Business Objects (like Hyperion), on board and happy. And I guess that Business Objects must feel that it knows its customer base well enough that it can meet their demands over the next two years.

Where the company may have more problems is in convincing potential new users of Business Objects (who are not already Crystal customers) that they should move to a business intelligence platform whose infrastructure is to be radically overhauled within the next two years. Competitors are sure to cast FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and Business Objects will need to ensure that it has a very good story to tell, if new customer sales are not stagnate pending the upgrade.

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