SugarCRM sweetens new open-source CRM product

Open-source software start-up SugarCRM Inc. announced it will release the first commercial enterprise version of its Linux-based open-source CRM application on Sept. 9 , starting at US$149 per seat for the first year.

Sugar Sales Professional 1.5 is designed to provide business users with a flexible open-source application that also comes with technical support and training support. Sugar Sales Professional runs natively on Linux and can be used with Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.

John Roberts, co-founder and CEO of the company, said this approach reflects what customers have been asking for from software vendors. “Enterprise users want support, a knowledge base and a real company standing behind (a product), with updates, patches and fixes,” Roberts said. “Yes, it is open-source, but a real company is there to support it.”

“(Customers) are tired of paying huge licensing costs for proprietary software applications,” Roberts said. “We do not lock our customers into proprietary architecture.”

Roberts and his other business partners have 20 years of experience in the CRM marketplace. He helped start the Cupertino, Calif., company, which was founded in April, after leaving software vendor E.piphany Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., where he worked on commercial CRM applications.

Because the software is open-source, enterprise customers are free to modify the code. The code is licensed under the Sugar Public License, which is a carbon copy of the Mozilla Public License. User changes to the code have to be released to the open-source community only if the code is redistributed to another party, including a partner vendor. Users can’t sell the changed code under the license.

In April, when SugarCRM released an early version of the application, there were just 48 downloads from users. Last month, there were 13,051 downloads, which Roberts said shows the need for such an application in the marketplace.

The new Version 1.5 of Sugar Sales includes a Microsoft Outlook e-mail plug-in that allows Outlook users to capture customer e-mails into Sugar Sales with a single click. It also includes data importing tools that allow users to import data from most proprietary CRM products, including, ACT, SalesLogix and Microsoft CRM.

The application includes enterprise-specific tools and controls, including software optimization, administrator training, patch support and technical assistance, at a price lower than traditional CRM applications, which can cost as much as US$1,000 per seat, Roberts said.

After the US$149 introductory price for the first year, Sugar Sales Professional subscribers will pay US$239 per year for continued support and services.

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