Experts downplay consolidation of reporting-tools market

DBAs and Windows professionals need not fear recent consolidation in the market for query and reporting tools, according to industry watchers.

The proposed acquisition of popular reporting-tools vendor Crystal Decisions shouldn't be cause for concern among Windows and database administrators who are finding the choices in this market to be expanding, not shrinking, experts say.

Paris-based Business Objects SA said last week it would acquire Crystal Decisions Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., in a stock-and-cash deal valued at about $820 million. Both companies sell reporting tools to IT shops, but they target different customers.

Business Objects software is for power users who do a lot of ad hoc querying and reporting and who require a sophisticated level of data analysis. Crystal Decisions sells reporting tools to a broader base of professionals. Collectively, their reporting products cover the entire audience, according to John Hagerty, a vice president of AMR Research, Boston.

Business Objects has said the company will continue to support Crystal Decisions products, which is why customers need not be too concerned, at least for now, he said.

The acquisition comes at a time when Microsoft is also testing a reporting service that will compete directly with software from Crystal Decisions. SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services is expected to be available later this year for free for customers with SQL Server licenses. In general, all of the database vendors, including Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp., are embedding reporting features into their software, which threaten the standalone business intelligence vendor.

Microsoft has bundled tools with SQL Server before, and it always puts pressure on competitors to do more with their products, said Carl Olofson, research director at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. But it doesn't necessarily obliterate the market.

Hagerty agrees. "There's always room for more reporting tools," he said. Though Microsoft's product has strong production capability, its publishing format isn't easy to use, he said.

"It will take a while for Microsoft to [make SQL Server Reporting Services] competitive," he said. "Microsoft has a play, but the business intelligence market has a lot of legs and the ability for many different participants to have a part of it."

Some customers said they just aren't sure yet how the acquisition will impact their use of Crystal Reports in the long run, or whether customers will instead turn to Microsoft's reporting service software.

Crystal Decisions products are well-liked by customers, said Matthew Hansberger, director of Wintel technology at Pacific Life Insurance Co., Newport Beach, Calif. Whether customers decide to drop Crystal in lieu of Microsoft's reporting service will be hard to tell. Ultimately, the decision of which tool to use is driven by engineers, not by executives, Hansberger said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Article: MS to reveal more about reporting tools

News: Business Objects to acquire Crystal Decisions

Product & Vendor Solution Center: Query and reporting tools

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