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Software rivals hone business tools

PeopleSoft and Microsoft separately introduce new applications designed to help businesses sell to and service customers.

PeopleSoft and Microsoft on Monday each introduced new applications designed to help businesses sell to and service customers, the companies said in separate announcements.

As reported, PeopleSoft will ship a new release of its CRM (customer relationship management) applications at the end of the month, as part of its new PeopleSoft CRM 8.8 product. The release includes more than 150 new features, all aimed at streamlining customer service, sales, and marketing activities.

Among the additions are tools for personalized marketing, customer segmentation and computer-guided sales, the company said. PeopleSoft also said it beefed up the interoperability and data-analysis capabilities in the product. In addition, it introduced versions designed specifically for companies in the insurance, energy and computer industries.

PeopleSoft competes with Siebel Systems and SAP, among others, in the market for CRM software market. The Pleasanton, Calif.-based business software maker says it's gaining market share in the CRM segment and that it recently converted several Siebel customers to its CRM applications.

Meanwhile, Microsoft released a new set of applications designed to help service companies organize teams of workers, plan projects and track project costs, the company said Monday. The application, called Professional Services Automation, combines Microsoft Project desktop software with accounting applications from the company's Great Plains line of business applications. The software starts at $15,000.

Software makers PeopleSoft, SAP, Niku and Artemis International Solutions also provide so-called professional services automation (PSA) applications, aimed at human resource-intensive businesses such as advertising, public relations, legal services and other types of business consulting.

Microsoft, which is seeking a greater share of the business applications market long dominated by SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle, unveiled its plans to introduce PSA software in September. The company has yet to announce the general release of its long-awaited first version of a new set of CRM applications, which it promised to deliver by the end of the year.