Business Objects is to release an upgrade to its suite of business intelligence software, including a new application that aims to let non-technical users generate reports and queries from company data.

Release 2, which will be released on Thursday, includes a new application called BusinessObjects Intelligent Question, which lets users create queries in their everyday language by answering questions from a series of drop-down menus. A sales executive, for example, could ask for a list of customers in the top 25 percent of buyers by revenue for a particular region.

The application aims to prevent users from making invalid queries by steering them through the questions they ask. It should help to bring business intelligence to a wider audience of users, according to Business Objects.

The current release of BusinessObjects XI, which includes reporting tools gained through the company's purchase of Crystal Decisions, came out late last year.

The new release also provides more information about where data used by the applications comes from and when it was updated, intended to help companies meet regulatory requirements for ensuring that information they report is current and accurate.

It also adds new tools for loading business intelligence data into Microsoft Office applications, and some performance management capabilities from SRC Software, a company Business Objects bought earlier this year.

Business Objects competes with specialist BI vendors such as Cognos, Hyperion Solutions and SAS Institute, as well as "platform" vendors such as Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, which have been adding to the BI capabilities in their software.

Momentum has built behind BusinessObjects XI since its release last year, UK analyst company Ovum said in a research note last month. For the quarter to Sept. 30, Business Objects' revenue from software licenses grew 14 percent year-on-year, to US$120 million, which Ovum called "very respectable" growth.

However, the company is also mired in a legal spat with another rival, MicroStrategy, over claims of patent infringement and the actions of former MicroStrategy employees hired by Business Objects.