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Sprint, NetLedger sign marketing deal

The phone outfit agrees to market the Oracle-related company's set of hosted accounting and sales applications to subscribers of Sprint's high-speed Internet service.

Sprint has agreed to market NetLedger's set of hosted accounting and sales applications to subscribers of its high-speed Internet service, the companies announced Thursday.

Under terms of the deal, Sprint will promote NetLedger's hosted-application package to more than 24,000 small business customers of its DSL (digital subscriber line) service.

Users of hosted applications access the programs over the Internet as they would a Web page--rather than licensing and installing applications on their own computers. The task of housing and maintaining the software is then left to its developer or a third party. NetLedger recommends customers use a high-speed Internet connection in conjunction with its applications, hence the Sprint relationship.

NetLedger has similar marketing arrangements with national retail chain Office Max and payroll services company Automatic Data Processing. The company hopes such deals will help it reach its goal of having positive cash flow in the second quarter of 2003 and doubling revenue next year with an in-house sales force of just 35 people. NetLedger said it so far has 5,700 customers.

The company, launched in 1998, is majority owned by Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison, who is also NetLedger's chairman. NetLedger's software is designed especially for use by small businesses and runs atop Oracle database software. The company competes with Salesforce.com, Salesnet and UpShot.com in the market for hosted business applications.

Business application hosting became a hot prospect for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the late '90s, with proponents touting such services as a cheaper, easier alternative to traditional software acquisition. The concept has yet to take off, however, and many start-ups that entered the market have since gone bust. Siebel Systems, a major seller of sales and marketing applications, shut down its hosting spinoff last year, citing little demand.

Oracle, on the other hand, is still a believer in the model. In addition to NetLedger, the company is promoting its own hosting services for its business applications and database software.