LINUXWORLD SF - SugarCRM readies Sugar 4.5 for mid-August

SugarCRM will ship Sugar 4.5 in mid-August, featuring support for Microsoft products, a better user interface and improved internationalization.

SugarCRM said Wednesday it plans to release Sugar 4.5, the first version of its CRM (customer relationship management) software to fully support Microsoft server products, on Aug. 15 during the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco..

Now in beta testing, Sugar 4.5 includes the first fruit of a technical agreement the open-source player signed with Microsoft in February. The software offers tighter integration with Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS), Active Directory and SQL Server software.

SugarCRM will also release a new distribution of its software specifically optimized for Microsoft's Windows operating system and available under the Microsoft Community License, part of the software giant's program for sharing source code with customers, partners and governments.

John Roberts, chief executive officer of SugarCRM, stressed that the Windows distribution of Sugar 4.5 in no way represents the company moving away from its open-source roots.

"We're not leaving Linux," he said. The Windows distribution is the third optimized version of Sugar, in addition to versions for the LAMP stack and Apple Computer's Mac OS X. LAMP is an open-source Web development platform based on Linux, Apache, MySQL and programming languages PHP, Perl or Python.

Originally due to appear in June, Sugar delayed the release to polish it up, Roberts said. SugarCRM provides commercial and free open-source versions of Sugar. With its commercial Professional and Enterprise versions, the vendor charges for technical support and a variety of services. A hosted version of Sugar Professional costs from US$40 per user per month, while the on-premise version costs from US$239 per user per year.

Sugar has incorporated Ajax technology throughout the application, including the user interface, to make personalization easier. Ajax, or asynchronous JavaScript and extensible markup language, is the collective term used to describe a group of software development tools and standards that help Web applications try to match the speed and usability of their desktop counterparts.

SugarCRM user Sterling Production Control Units (PCU) is particularly interested in the user interface, according to Christopher Edwards, the company's general manager of sales and marketing. The ability for sales people to create the look they need is key, he said. With headquarters in Ohio, the company provides fluid fill and testing equipment for use in the auto and consumer electronics industries.

The improved internationalization features in Sugar 4.5 are also attractive, Edwards said. Sugar 4.5 will include full support for multibyte characters used in languages such as Chinese. Sterling PCU currently has 25 Sugar 4.6 licenses for its Dayton office and may look to grow that number and use the CRM software in its European and Asian operations next year.

Sterling PCU moved to Sugar over a year ago after "hitting additional costs" in the customization and support of CRM software from Salesforce.com, Edwards said.

SugarCRM is now working on coming out with a major release of its software every six to seven months. Sugar 5 is due out at the end of the year. The release will reflect the vendor's strategy to create "a very modular application framework where it's very easy for other software components to connect in," Roberts said.

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