French software maker Business Objects has released the first of three new versions of its business intelligence software tailored for small to medium-size companies, a market area poised for growth.

The product, Standard Edition, is cheaper than the company's enterprise product and designed for those new to business intelligence (BI) applications, adding setup wizards and online tutorials, said Todd Rowe, a vice president and general manager for the company's mid-market division.

Standard Edition includes features drawn from the company's enterprise product, such as dashboards, ad hoc reporting and integration with Microsoft Office applications, but consolidates what were separate modules into a simplified package, Rowe said.

Business Objects was losing out on sales to mid-market businesses - which can range from 100 to 1,000 employees - because its enterprise product was too expensive for their budgets, Rowe said. Business Objects competes with Cognos and Hyperion Solutions at both enterprise and mid-market levels.

The mid-market sector, however, is the most profitable as well as the fastest growing area, Rowe said. It comprises about 35 percent of the $5.9 billion BI market, growing at 12.5 percent annually, according to the company's projections and data from Crimson Consulting Group Inc.

Business Objects is hailing Monday's release as its most aggressive in two years, with Standard Edition launching in 62 countries in 12 languages, Rowe said.

By June, Business Objects will release Professional Edition, which adds data integration capabilities. By the end of year, the Premium Edition will include scorecards, metrics and goals, which will allow businesses to do forward planning. That release will come before the end of the year.

All editions include integration with Crystal Reports, the company's software for formulating data and delivering reports through a web browser.

Standard Edition is sold as a perpetual licence, Rowe said. Pricing starts at US$20,000 for five concurrent users.