Business Objects launches Crystal Reports SMB bundle

Business Objects took the wraps Monday off the latest version of its Crystal Reports software and released a new bundle aimed at giving smaller businesses an all-in-one package for creating and delivering analytical reports over the Web.

The new Crystal Reports Server XI package, priced at US$7,500, includes five concurrent access licenses, one Crystal Reports authoring license and one year of maintenance and support. The package has a single-server hardware limitation, and licensing is capped at four packages per deployment.

Business Objects, which maintains dual headquarters in San Jose, California, and Paris, also released worldwide its Crystal Reports XI update, the reporting software's biggest overhaul since the release of version X a year ago. The new version features interface changes intended to simplify use, a new virtual "workbench" for organizing projects, better Java IDE (integrated development environment) support and improved customization options. Dynamic and cascading prompts, a feature that allows end users to customize their reports on the fly, was the most-requested new feature from the software's user base, according to senior product marketing manager Jaylene Crick, and has been added in version XI.

Crystal Reports customer Steve White, the Web and network manager for Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said he's eager to take advantage of the dynamic prompts option. White's department selected Crystal Reports last year for analytics, and in August his group went live with a statewide initiative offering some 4,000 users access to the software for creating student assessment reports.

Some school names change year to year, and manually hardcoding those changes into reports takes up scant resources in White's department. While running version X, he's been beta testing Crystal reports XI, and he anticipates that the new software will enable users to customize school names themselves. "It will hopefully save us a lot of time," White said.

The new version also includes improved hooks with Microsoft's .Net development platform, White said, allowing his group to better integrate the look-and-feel of the application with the rest of the department's Web sites.

Crystal Reports XI per-user pricing starts at US$195 for the standard edition (for creating reports from PC-based data) or US$495 for the professional edition (for working with enterprise data sources). The software is available directly from Business Objects or through its channel resellers.

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