March 19, 2007 1:26 PM PDT

SugarCRM launches project-planning application

Three years after establishing itself as one of the first specialist CRM vendors running its software on Linux, SugarCRM has launched into the project-planning market.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company launched its Project Management application on Monday, which integrates project planning into core customer relationship management applications. A key feature is Sugar Projects, which gives users a 360-degree view of a project along with shared files, notes and benchmarks, and allows collaboration between Internet users and customers. Also included is the ability to produce grids, templates and charts of projects.

The news follows the recent announcement that the company was opening an office in Ireland, its first office outside the U.S.

SugarCRM did not release details of exact pricing, but--as with all SugarCRM applications--a free version of the software is also available. Advanced editions of the software are available, and the company offers these with an on-site license as an application server or as an on-demand service.

A key advantage for users, said SugarCRM Chief Executive John Roberts, is that SugarCRM does not have "the extreme sales and marketing of the other CRM vendors." As a result, "R&D is a very large proportion of our budget," he said.

Roberts added that, though the software is not open-source, it carries all the advantages for the user of open source. "There is no lock-in," he said. "For the other suppliers, it's all about how can I lock you in to a proprietary on-demand or proprietary software sale."

So far, the company has 200 customers in Europe, and has provided 1.5 million downloads of its core software worldwide. Most of the downloads have been the free version of the software, Roberts said, but a growing number of companies are now taking the subscription version.

Colin Barker of ZDNet reported from London.

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