SugarCRM to support iPhone, BlackBerry

SugarCRM is bridging the distance between mobile phones and PCs with a new version of its Web-based customer relationship management software now available for beta testing.

In SugarCRM 5.1, the company is coming out with a better interface for mobile devices with standard HTML (hypertext markup language) browsers, said Chris Harrick, vice president of product marketing. It will let users view the same number of standard SugarCRM modules, or sets of information, on their smart phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) as on their PCs. Supported devices include the Apple iPhone and Research in Motion BlackBerry, two of the platforms in highest demand among SugarCRM’s customers, Harrick said.

More enterprise tasks are finding their way to mobile phones as the devices grow in processing power, connection speed and browser sophistication. Research in Motion has wooed third-party developers to bring applications to the popular business and personal device, and iPhone users are eagerly awaiting software to be developed using Apple’s recently released iPhone SDK (software development kit). But SugarCRM is using the browsers of those devices and others, just as it uses standard browsers on PCs.

SugarCRM is available in a hosted SaaS (software-as-a-service) version as well as a version that can be hosted in a customer’s own data center, but there is never any special software to load on client systems, Harrick said. Last week, BT said it would offer SugarCRM as well as the NetSuite on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) product as a hosted service for small and medium-sized businesses, SugarCRM’s core market.

SugarCRM lets sales people and executives view and modify information in a series of modules, essentially databases that each contain a certain type of information. Those may include contacts, information on sales leads and histories of customer purchases. Previously, users of SugarCRM on mobile phones were only able to use about five to eight modules, he said. With the new interface, they can use more than 20, the same standard ones available on a PC. In the future, custom modules that enterprises create will be available on their mobile devices, Harrick said.

The Version 5.1 beta release also includes Complex Reporting Sets, the ability to compile reports from data in multiple modules. For example, a single report could provide information about sales leads that responded to a particular advertising campaign and later became customers. Other new features include Run-Time Filters, which let users change the terms of complex reports and get the new results on the fly, and easier integration of SugarCRM data into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

SugarCRM offers both a free community edition of its software and a more fully featured version that is sold on a subscription basis. Both are open source. Anyone can participate in the Version 5.1 beta test for free at SugarCRM’s Web site. The company expects the new software to emerge from beta at the end of June.

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