Oracle to bring online Small Business Suite to Europe

Oracle Corp. will bring localized versions of its online applications suite for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to Europe this year, an Oracle executive said Thursday.

Dubbed Oracle Small Business Suite, the service will first be launched in the U.K. in the second quarter, with other European markets following later this year, said Tim Payne, director of online services marketing for Oracle in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in an interview at Oracle's AppsWorld conference here.

"We're seeing demand, people (in Europe) are registering for the 14-day trial in the U.S. Customers are ringing in to our European support center asking when it will be launched," said Payne.

The European launch will follow almost a year after the North American introduction. The U.S. service allows companies to manage business processes, such as financials, payroll and customer relationship management, online for US$99 per month per seat. All data in the suite is integrated, similar to in its big sister the Oracle 11i E-Business Suite.

"The majority of the functionality that is available in the North American version will be available in the European version," Payne said, adding that Oracle has worked with accountancy firms and other SME-related businesses to adapt the Small Business Suite to European rules and regulations.

In Europe, the Oracle Small Business Suite will be targeted at companies with fewer than 250 employees, according to Payne. In the U.S. the service is aimed at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

The European service will be offered under the Oracle Small Business Suite brand, but can also be offered and branded by third parties, such as banks, Payne said.

"We have different ways to market in the U.S. Sometimes it (the Small Business Suite) will be offered by banks, it is not always visible that it is Oracle Small Business Suite that is powering it. It will be similar in Europe," he said.

The launch of the suite won't bring about a radical shift in the way European SMEs manage their business, said Beth Barling, senior analyst with AMR Research Inc.

" It is a good move for Oracle to offer it here, but I imagine that it won't an overnight switch and that uptake will be steady," she said. "A well-priced fairly functional application for small businesses is welcome. But, as we all know, online applications aren't attractive in Europe yet. There are perceived problems with Internet access and security, which are even more prevalent in small business than in large enterprises."

Oracle's Small Business Suite is a cooperative effort between Oracle and NetLedger Inc., a privately held company majority owned by Oracle Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison. Europe is the first expansion outside North America for the online service, Payne said, declining to comment on further expansion plans.

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