Oracle adds CRM to free online tools

Oracle Corp. launched a new, free, online customer care service, Support.Oracle.com, at its inaugural AppsWorld conference in Paris Monday.

The online service is aimed at eliminating the cost to companies of building and operating physical customer support centers, Oracle said in a statement. It offers businesses an online version of the customer care elements of Oracle E-Business Suite, accessible via a Web browser from anywhere in the world.

The basic service will initially be offered free of charge, although "customers will pay a low monthly fee" for more advanced functionality, according to the Web site for the new service. In addition, the company may charge a fee for "request management" after the initial promotional offer expires.

In August 2000, Oracle introduced a similar service for sales staff, Sales.Oracle.com. It claims 150,000 users in 10,000 companies are already using this service.

The venue for the announcement, Oracle AppsWorld, is a user conference featuring 120 conference sessions and a string of keynote speeches from Oracle executives and users on the agenda. Running through Wednesday, it will focus on five themes: business-to-business marketplaces, web self-service, wireless electronic commerce, applications hosting, and electronic marketing. Alongside the conference is an exhibition featuring the latest Oracle-based electronic commerce technologies.

Larry Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday. Sergio Giacoletto, executive vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, will also speak at the conference, while Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) President and General Manager for Europe Bernard de Valence will be among the keynote speakers from outside Oracle, according to an Oracle statement.

Oracle and its partners took the opportunity to make a number of other announcements about new contracts and products at the conference.

The company's Dutch subsidiary, Oracle Netherlands BV, has struck a deal to connect all 4,000 employees of information and communication technology services consultant Landis Group NV to an Oracle E-Business Suite, according to an Oracle statement. The system will provide employees with access to marketing, sales, human resources, procurement, manufacturing and financial functions, and incorporates call center, e-mail and scheduling systems.

Telia Net, the Danish subsidiary of Swedish telecommunications operator Telia Group AB, has recently upgraded to the Oracle E-Business Suite, according to Oracle. It said Telia Net was the first European company to upgrade to Oracle's Web-based suite of business applications, giving all employees in Denmark access to customer relationship management, order entry, order management and financial functions from their web browser. Telia Net will host the applications for other companies of the group in France, the U.K. and Italy before offering the service to customers as an ASP (application service provider), said Oracle.

HP and Oracle together announced Monday that the customer relationship management (CRM) partnership they set up in September 1999 had brought them 23 major European customers, including Colt Telecom PLC. HP and Oracle said they would jointly develop Oracle systems on the HP platform, using internet-enabled technologies from both companies.

Based on the number of advance registrations made through its Web site, Oracle expects 4,000 visitors will attend the show, it said in a statement Monday.

Oracle AppsWorld runs through Wednesday Feb. 14 at the CNIT, Paris La Defense. Keynotes and the exhibition are free to attend.

Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at +1-650-506-7000 or at http://www.oracle.com/.

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