Business Objects, seeing increased competition from Microsoft in the business intelligence mid-market, has released a new version of its Crystal Decisions software aimed at those customers.

Crystal Decisions Professional Edition follows the February release of a Standard version aimed at users with no previous experience with business intelligence software. The Professional version builds on the Standard Edition, adding data integration so users can extract information from a variety of databases including SQL Server, DB2 and databases from Oracle, Sybase and Ingres.

Still to come is the third member of the family, Crystal Decisions Premium Edition, due out in the fourth quarter. The Premium release will also include performance management functions such as scorecards, metrics and goals, according to Todd Rowe, vice president of worldwide mid-market business at Business Objects.

"We took a stair-step approach in adding functionality" when designing mid-market versions of the company's enterprise BI software, Rowe said. All offerings share the same code so a mid-market user has the ability to upgrade to the enterprise software.

The mid-market offerings are focused on simplicity, integration and aggressive price points, he added. Business Objects has added wizards, pre-built templates, reports and data marts for users who are migrating to their first BI software from simple spreadsheet applications.

The vendor has also spent time creating integrated suites since, unlike enterprise users, mid-market customers don't tend to have employees who work on tying together individual BI modules. The mid-market products sell from low tens of thousands of US dollars compared to $100,000 to $150,000 for enterprise versions.

Business Objects defines mid-market companies as those reporting less than $1 billion in revenue or with less than 1,000 staff. With perhaps only 10 percent to 15 percent of those customers currently using BI software, Rowe said the primary competitor for Business Objects in the mid-market is market awareness. The market is also highly fragmented, with analysts estimating that 18 software vendors divide up 80 percent of the market.

"Microsoft is our primary competitor for mid-market for the medium to longer term," Rowe said. "We're no longer focusing as much on Cognos or other BI pure-plays."

Business Objects is trying to differentiate itself from Microsoft by offering Crystal Decisions not only on Windows but on two flavours of Linux - Red Hat and Suse. The company also believes it's ahead of the game in providing the Professional version that includes BI and data integration in a single product.

Business Objects has made a number of acquisitions in performance management, including the recent purchase of Cartesis for around $300 million. The vendor is currently integrating the planning and budgeting capabilities it has bought, but will look to offer that functionality for the mid-market in 2008, Rowe said. Business Objects has yet to determine what that mid-market budgeting and planning product will look like. It could be the fourth member of the Crystal Decisions family, or could be a separate offering, he added.

Pricing for Crystal Decisions Professional Edition starts from $35,000 in North America for five concurrent users on a single Windows or Linux server. Pricing elsewhere in the world will vary according to local market conditions. The software is available in 12 languages - English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.