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PeopleSoft outlines new Web-based software

The software company details its suite of Internet-based business applications, two years in the making, and unveils a host of new products.

PeopleSoft today detailed its suite of Internet-based business applications, two years in the making, and unveiled a host of new products.

PeopleSoft 8 is the company's latest release of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, re-architected and redesigned for the Internet, said Jim Littlefield, director of PeopleSoft 8 Internet architecture. ERP software automates and manages a company's human resources, financial and manufacturing needs.

The biggest difference for PeopleSoft customers will be the new software's look and feel. "PeopleSoft 8 looks just like a Web page," said Littlefield. "(The applications) look like and That was a huge investment (for us) to change our applications to look like Web sites. We're really taking a leap ahead and delivering a next-generation software that looks and feels like an Internet application, vs. client-server running on a browser."

At a news conference tomorrow in New York, PeopleSoft plans to demonstrate PeopleSoft 8 along with 59 additional new software products. The company's latest suite of software will contain a total of 167 Web-based business applications, executives said.

Some analysts have criticized the company as late to the game with Web-savvy applications, while rivals Oracle and SAP have already released Web-based versions of their core enterprise software.

In May, Oracle released Oracle 11i, the company's Web-enabled suite of business applications, which includes the latest version of its back-office applications along with customer relationship management (CRM) and order-management software. CRM software automates a company's sales, marketing and customer service needs. SAP has also released several components of its suite of Web-based business applications.

While PeopleSoft has lagged behind Oracle and SAP to release a new Internet-based version of its software, analysts say the PeopleSoft 8 release can help the company bolster lost momentum in the tough market.

"The important thing is that the Internet land grab is still going on (among ERP companies)," said Joshua Greenbaum, an industry analyst who heads Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, Calif. "There's plenty of room for three big players in this market. In PeopleSoft's case, it's better late than never."

PeopleSoft said it spent the last two years rewriting over 14,000 application panels, or screens, into Web pages. In the past, executives said, panels were typically designed around the Windows "look and feel," and now they have been redesigned to look exactly like Web pages, making the applications much easier to use.

Greenbaum added that this latest release shows PeopleSoft has worked over time to fine tune its products.

"This means that PeopleSoft is in the Internet game," he said. "They've come out with a solidly Internet architected platform. They've crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's?. They're on the road to redemption in a big way."

FAC/Equities analyst Rob Kugel said despite the fact that the PeopleSoft 8 release finally gives the firm a competitive product to show off, the company still faces challenges with sales execution.

"The jury still needs to be out on the actual performance of this company," Kugel said. "It's a very different (market) than it was two years ago and in some way, it's a more positive one. In the ERP market, a rising tide will lift a lot of boats?. But it's really hard to show terrific performance in a tepid market. And, that is the reality that all these vendors face."

PeopleSoft said it spent about $500 million in research and development efforts to complete PeopleSoft 8, an increase of 27 percent over what it spent to develop the previous release.

"There's a difference between being the first (out with a Web-based suite) and the first to be doing it right," added Littlefield. "Based on all the feedback we're receiving from analysts and customers, PeopleSoft is the first to really do it the way people want Internet applications to be delivered."

Included with PeopleSoft 8 are new applications that the company is calling "collaborative" software, which are applications that extend to people who traditionally do not have access to enterprise applications, such as a company's employees, customers and suppliers. The company also intends to deliver a corporate portal application soon.

New collaborative software includes applications such as e-benefits, e-recruit and e-procurement, along with front-office applications integrated from Vantive's line of CRM products. PeopleSoft bought Vantive last October and began rolling out its suite of CRM applications this year.

Additionally, PeopleSoft said its has teamed with Web search company Verity. The two companies have integrated Verity search capabilities into PeopleSoft 8 so companies can search for data housed in their corporate ERP system. PeopleSoft 8 also supports Unicode, which allows companies to use a single database to support their business applications in languages other than English.

The company said PeopleSoft 8 will be generally available in September as a complete suite or on a standalone basis. No pricing was announced. Customers testing PeopleSoft 8 now include Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Green Mountain Coffee and Cisco Systems, the company said.