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AT&T and Siebel ride in tandem

The companies join forces to supply software and networking services to businesses in the United States, and then later abroad.

AT&T and Siebel Systems have joined forces to supply software and networking services to businesses in the United States and later abroad, AT&T said Tuesday.

The companies are vying for a piece of the market for (CRM) software, which is designed, among other things, to track sales leads, accounts and orders and to help service representatives handle customer complaints.

That market is expected to grow, according to a study by industry analyst IDC. The study, released Monday, predicts that sales of CRM software will rise 11.3 percent, on an annual compounded rate, to $101 billion by 2007. But IDC cautions that much of the growth for this year and next will be moderate.

AT&T and Siebel are looking to attract a "cross section" of customers, including current users of Siebel's eBusiness applications who want to upgrade to more sophisticated software, according to AT&T spokeswoman Lee Ann Kustery.

She said the partnership will make it easier for customers to install and use Siebel's software, which usually relies on a telephone network or broadband provider to move data back and forth. By working together, AT&T and Siebel can better tailor their products to match a customer's needs, she said.

The companies have never before worked together to sell their equipment and services, Kustery said.

Siebel Systems and fellow software vendors PeopleSoft, Sybase and WebMethods have recently issued warnings about their first-quarter results, blaming uncertain global politics and the nation's floundering economic growth.

The telephone business has been in a freefall for at least two years, with price wars driving down the cost of a phone call to new lows. The situation has forced carriers to explore new avenues of revenue, such as wireless data. For example, AT&T has delved further into supplying businesses with Web and other kinds of connectivity.