NetSuite iPhones It In
Counting on the public's inability to get enough news about Apple's iPhone, NetSuite today announced SuitePhone, a capability that allows NetSuite customers to run business operations using the new Apple wireless device. The new SuitePhone capability provides native support for Apple's Safari browser, used on both the iPhone and on the Macintosh operating system, in turn making NetSuite's AJAX-based user-interface technologies such as drag-and-drop portlets and inline editing Mac-compatible.
This marks the debut of the ERP, CRM, and e-commerce functionality of NetSuite on the Apple platform. "With the new NetSuite release, Apple users have access to a feature-rich application, helping to enable the use of Apple systems to expand from the graphics departments of midsized companies to core front-office CRM and back-office ERP users," NetSuite said in a written statement. The new SuitePhone capability and native Safari browser support are available free of charge in NetSuite 2007.0, currently rolling out to existing customers. It will be available to new customers in August 2007.
This announcement, the first to detail business capabilities for the consumer-electronics hype magnet iPhone, is also the first release from NetSuite since July 2, when the CRM vendor filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a preliminary step toward an initial public offering. (As part of the IPO process, NetSuite is now in the federally mandated "quiet period" that follows filing and limits the kind of information that can be released to the public.) Taken as a whole, this is a potentially major step for NetSuite in capturing a segment of the still-nascent mobile CRM market.
"SuitePhone is the first of its kind, bringing broad business management capabilities to the Apple iPhone," says C. Sean Rollings, senior director of marketing with NetSuite. "CRM users, as well as users in the back-office and e-commerce operations, have full access to their NetSuite job functions," he says, adding that several aspects are available in real time:
- financial functionality such as invoicing, accounts receivable, and payroll;
- CRM tasks like lead entry, quote and order placement, and contact management; and
- role-based dashboards.
The SuitePhone functionality marks a departure from current mobile CRM technology, which has to date offered a slimmed-down interface with reduced capabilities. "This is definitely a big differentiator for NetSuite; the company is taking advantage of its AJAX technology and the available iPhone browser APIs," says Ray Wang, principal analyst at Forrester Research, referring to the application programming interfaces that enable third-party connections to the Safari Web browser. "You look at the iPhone screen and all the real estate, and it looks just like NetSuite on the desktop. Once Apple addresses the issue of syncing with [Microsoft] Outlook, you'll have all your business tools in one device." (The iPhone, of course, has its own contacts application; Outlook contacts can be exported to it.)
Interestingly, the NetSuite press release announcing SuitePhone refers to the company as providing "an SAP-like, integrated application"--a turn of phrase not seen before in NetSuite communications. Wang says that, by singling out the CRM market-share leader, NetSuite is bringing attention to its ability to address the SMB market and complex functionality. But Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principle of Beagle Research Group, sees another possible motive. "I think they are sharpening their focus for the IPO and following [Salesforce.com's] attack strategy against Siebel," Pombriant says. "SAP strikes me as a company that is in danger of being disrupted."
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