Oracle plans to offer its sales force automation software to customers free of charge in a bid to grab market share away from arch rival Siebel Systems.
The database giant said it will give away some modules such as calendaring, customer pipeline and sales forecasting modules, but charge pay-per-use fees for additional components including sales compensation, travel and outbound proposal generation.
Randy Weston, an analyst at AMR Research said the move illustrates the competitive nature of the customer relationship management (CRM) market. "AMR expects more such gimmicks and special offers will permeate the industry as vendors strive to gainthe most customers and control the market," he said.
He believes Oracle will find initial success with the programme but rivals including Siebel and SAP will follow with their own schemes. SAP and Siebel failed to comment on Oracle's announcement.
Oracle has been offering the service on a trial basis for two months and counts 400 customers including Veritas Software and Hewlett-Packard.
The programme also competes with free services from SalesForce.com, a company founded by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, which allows companies to share data over the internet. It services are available free to the first five users within a company for the first six months of use. After that, users are charged at a rate of about $50 per month.
Sales force automation software is big business and researcher, IDC, predicts the market will balloon from $888 million in 1998 to $5bn by 2003.
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