Broadening its portfolio of business intelligence software offerings, Business Objects has agreed to buy technology for analysing unstructured data, added enhancements to its financial performance application and begun testing an on-demand market information service, the company announced Tuesday at customer event in Berlin.

Business Objects has entered into a definitive agreement to buy privately held Inxight Software, a California-based provider of technology designed to analyse unstructured data in different text formats, such as email and Word documents. Financial details were not disclosed.

Inxight technology can analyse "anything that is digitised text, including images to the extent that the text is extractable from the image without requiring image analysis," said Ian Hersey, Inxight founder and vice president of corporate development and strategy. "Text is very hard to analyse because it's not something that lends itself to a simple algorithm."

Customers have used Inxight technology to analyse unstructured data in two primary ways: either by taking massive amounts of data, creating the equivalent of a data warehouse and making queries; or by taking a federation approach and initiating a simple search to multiple sources and bringing back results and dynamically processing them, according to Hersey.

Business Objects is keen to add the unstructured data analysis capability to its arsenal of business analytic tools, according to senior vice president and chief marketing officer Marge Breya.

"Many consumer sentiment surveys are done on a very structured yes/no or 0-to-10 basis," Breya said. "But imagine if you could look at local newspaper articles and other information feeds and understand the adjectives they're using. You would have a far better understanding of what true consumer sentiment is."

Business Objects, with dual headquarters in Paris and California, expects to close the Inxight deal in the third quarter and launch products later in the year, according to Breya.

In Berlin, the company also announced enhancements to its enterprise performance management (EPM) suite. The enhancements include the integration of recently acquired ALG Software on the Business Objects XI platform, financial performance analytics and new visualisation and data integration capabilities.

"We entered the EPM market a couple of years ago and have made some acquisitions along the way," including Cartesis, a maker of finance and performance management software, Breya said. The focus now, she said, is putting the EPM acquisitions on the Business Objects XI platform.

Users in Berlin also learned of a new hosted offering. The new Information OnDemand offering, which is currently in public beta testing, will allow users to order market information that includes both information in the public domain, such as SEC filings, or from information providers such as Dun & Bradstreet, according to Breya.

"This is a good offering for folks who either need radically quick time-to-market information or don't have sufficient IT resources available in-house," she said. "It's a very easy, secure way to share reports and analytics among a community."

Over the course of this year, Business Objects plans to make its entire range of products available online, according to Breya.

Business Objects' plans to broaden its offerings come at a time when it is facing increasing competition from Oracle, which has strengthened its business intelligence portfolio with acquisitions. Other Business Objects competitors include MicroStrategy and Cognos.