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August 25, 2005

Oracle targets mobile market with sales-for-handhelds app

Oracle Corp has made its play for the handheld sector of the mobile market with the launch of Oracle Sales for Handhelds, a platform- and device-agnostic application designed to provide smart phone and PDA users with direct, real-time, two-way access to enterprise data.

By CBR Staff Writer

Although the application acts as an extension to the CRM Sales component within Oracle’s E-Business Suite, and taps into its data, it is not a shrink-wrapped version of the enterprise module, said Aseem Chandra, director of CRM product strategy. It has been written specifically for handheld devices with the aim of providing sales people with an access point into enterprise data.

There are tons of applications that run on handhelds but they are disconnected from enterprise data, said Chandra. The Oracle application enables sales reps to access and update data such as contacts, appointments, and tasks held within the enterprise system in real time. Because it supports direct access, when updates regarding for example the status of a deal are made, the changes automatically flow into the related sales forecasts, ensuring a unified view of customers pipeline and orders for both the sales and management teams. The application can be used in disconnected mode where needed, and includes a program that allows synchronization between the PDA and laptop, or between the PDA and the enterprise server.

Oracle believes its value proposition lies in being able to blend handheld-based communications with enterprise data rather than forcing users to use a separate application. It will also provide support for wide range of platforms, as well as enable access via Microsoft Outlook because that is the primary interface between sales reps and enterprise systems, with 80% using Outlook in some fashion to manage their sales activities. Competitors may claim they have access to the enterprise, but where we are unique is the blended model and support for a wide range of platforms and devices, said Chandra. There are different levels of integration and there are issues around how wide the coverage is that you can provide.

Oracle is remaining neutral in the mobile platform war and has taken a device- and platform-agnostic approach because of the amount of fragmentation in the mobile market and its belief it will stay that way for some time. Handheld is a server-side application and uses a browser-based interface on the handheld device. Chandra said Oracle’s own research indicated that even within organizations, users were using a range of different devices and operating systems. Sales for Handhelds supports Pocket PC handheld devices running Pocket IE on Windows Mobile 2003, Palm based handheld devices running Blazer 3.0 browser or higher, and Nokia Communicators running Opera browser on Symbian Operating System 7.0. There is no Blackberry support as yet but it is in the process of being certified.

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