Oracle Small Business gets upgrade but stays local

Oracle partner NetLedger is working on a major upgrade of the Oracle Small Business Suite, adding a marketing application and...

Oracle partner NetLedger is working on a major upgrade of the Oracle Small Business Suite, adding a marketing application and expanding the accounting options. The European launch of the online applications suite meanwhile has been postponed until next year.

Release 8.0 of the Oracle Small Business Suite is scheduled for October and "rounds out the service", according to Jim LaBelle, vice-president of marketing for NetLedger.

The main addition is a marketing application, something that was missing in the Web-based applications suite that is aimed at companies with up to 500 employees.

"We pretty much automate every part of an organisation, except the marketing department. So with this next release you will see more tools to help marketers do their job. Things like campaign management and being able to segment customers and prospects and target online campaigns from that and measure the results," LaBelle said.

The online Oracle Small Business Suite is offered as a hosted application and is a co-operative effort between Oracle and NetLedger, a privately held company majority owned and chaired by Oracle chairman and chief executive officer Larry Ellison.

Companies pay $100 (£65) a month for the first user and $50 a month for each additional user. Chief competitors are Microsoft's bCentral, Intacct and Intuit's QuickBooks online.

NetLedger is also adding midrange accounting features for more complex companies, at the request of its customers, said LaBelle.

According to NetLedger, all of its approximately 5,200 customers use the Oracle Small Business Suite's accounting and customer relationship management features, with most using Web tools and Web store.

NetLedger's customer numbers show a slowdown in new customer acquisition. The company early this year said it had about 5,000 customers, 2,000 of which were added last year.

The upgrade is not a stab at a particular competitor, said LaBelle. "We don't design our product with any one competitor in mind," he added.

Oracle in January said the Small Business Suite would be introduced in Europe in the second quarter of this year, starting in the UK. Europeans were calling Oracle asking for the online applications and were signing up for the US trial, Oracle said at the time.

However, international plans have been postponed because of NetLedger's upgrade schedule, said Tim Payne, online services marketing director for Oracle.

"The latest version of the Oracle Small Business Suite will be localised for Europe once it is complete. The likely launch date will be sometime in early 2003, beginning with the UK and with other European countries to follow," Payne said.

"There are a number of things we want to have in place before we launch in another market, for example localisation, distribution and marketing. We don't want to fall into the trap of rushing to launch our application and maybe not pleasing the market fully," added NetLedger's LaBelle.

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