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Business Objects lays out integration plan

The maker of data analysis software will tie its products together with those of Crystal Decision, the rival it acquired, over the next two years.

Business Objects announced that it is ready to merge its business-reports software with that of Crystal Decision, the rival it purchased last year.

The France-based maker of data analysis software for businesses said on Thursday said it has completed much of the reorganization work related to the merger and that it plans to tie the companies' two product sets together over the next two years.

The integration, which will move forward in three phases, is one of the first major updates to the deal since the companies agreed to merge in July.

The two software sets will be brought together on a common technology infrastructure, promised Business Objects. The move should reduce the cost to customers of using both sets of products by requiring less administration and information technology know-how.

Business Objects completed its $1.2 billion purchase of Crystal Decisions, based in Palo Alto, Calif., in December. Each specializes in software that finds patterns and trends in data culled from businesses' various computer systems. However, Business Objects' products are designed for use by executives, while Crystal Decision creates reports for rank-and-file workers.

The acquisition is the largest of several recent buyouts in the "business intelligence" software niche. Hyperion, a rival, purchased Brio Software in October. Ascential Software, another competitor, bought Mercator Software in September.

Business Objects said originally that it planned to squeeze $25 million in savings from the Crystal Decision acquisition, mainly through streamlining processes and combining supplier contracts. It has given no update on the savings goal and whether it has been reached. But Lance Walter, director of product marketing at Business Objects, said on Thursday that the company has no plans for significant layoffs or for the discontinuation of any products as a means of cutting costs.

The first phase of the product integration plan is due for delivery by July, Business Objects said. It plans to ship an integration pack, containing an information portal and set of interfaces designed to combine administration, security and user sign-on tasks.

The second phase, due by year's end, will introduce a common infrastructure for both product sets. The third phase, to be delivered in the latter half of 2005, will merge infrastructures completely. The shared platform will be largely based on Crystal Decisions' technology, Walter said. He emphasized, however, that the move to a single underlying platform should not require major migration work on the part of customers.

Business Objects also unveiled a new version of Crystal Decisions on Thursday called Version 10. The update introduces features that make the software easier to use, maintain and link to other business systems, the company said.