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Cognos to take wraps off long-awaited ReportNet

Cognos' CEO is so confident of the success of his new reporting application that he's vowing to conduct his next earnings call naked if ReportNet doesn't deliver.

With mergers and acquisitions dominating the business intelligence (BI) industry in recent months, Cognos Inc., Ottowa, will trumpet news of a different kind Sept. 9 with the launch of its long-awaited ReportNet in New York.

The new software will include both business reporting capabilities -- such as ad hoc, inventory and sales trends -- and production reporting, with batch-oriented, high volume reports, company officials said.

Providing simple drag-and-drop report building, ReportNet will integrate seamlessly with Cognos' other BI applications, said Karen Williams, vice president of product marketing.

Several different queries can be built into one report, and they can either be linked or independent. ReportNet is also distributable both inside and outside the firewall, Williams said.

Expectations for ReportNet are high within Cognos, as evidenced by the fact that CEO Ron Zambonini pledged in June to conduct an earnings call for the third quarter naked if ReportNet does not make $10 million.

Initial impressions from financial analysts seem to suggest that Zambonini can keep his clothes on.

ReportNet delivers what the merger of Business Objects SA and Crystal Decisions Inc. promises, according to Steven Li, equity analyst with Toronto-based Raymond James Ltd., but Business Objects and Crystal still need to integrate their products.

"Cognos can already go and knock on customer's doors and point to the [merger] uncertainty, saying, 'You don't know what's going to happen,'" Li said. "I expect Cognos to leverage that quite a bit. Crystal and Business Objects now have two customer bases wondering what's going to happen with that investment. Do they need to move to another application?"

While many of ReportNet's individual features are already available in competing applications, Cognos has managed to combine them into a single tool, said Eric Rogge, vice president and research director for business intelligence with Ventana Research, in Belmont, Calif.

"There is a need amongst businesses today for simplifying their IT infrastructure, especially for BI, having a shorter list of vendors to support," Rogge said. "The ones they do support will have to have a broader range of services. Reporting is very hot right now. Businesses are requesting very simple, somewhat analytic, somewhat report-based applications to do activities like cross-sell, up-sell [and] inventory backlog analysis."

Additionally, ReportNet allows users to embed applications within the reports.

For example, an inventory manager working through a report would be able to call up a purchase order system if an item hits the re-order number. The application would not launch if it wasn't needed, Williams said.

ReportNet is Web services based, and it operates on a multitiered, multiplatform base that fits in with existing data sources, including standard databases, SAP AG's Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) or enterprise application servers, such BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic and IBM Corp.'s WebSphere, Williams said.

ReportNet is being launched in English, Japanese, French and German. Reports can be deployed in any language based on a single metadata model. Users can adjust reports based on browser settings or user preferences.

Cognos is still selling its other reporting applications, though new deployments will be geared toward ReportNet, Williams said. Cognos will release pricing information next week.

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