Microsoft CRM: It's a Live!

Microsoft Corporation announced today details of its release plans for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, an SaaS built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. After much talk and anticipation, the software leviathan--moving slow but with the force of a wrecking ball--will formally board the on-demand train in the second quarter of 2007. With the continually growing success of 3.0, Microsoft plans to use the same coding as the on-premise software to build out Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, which will be operated and managed by the Windows Live data centers. The company reports that its Dynamics CRM software has been spreading in customer base and capabilities, with 50,000 new users added this quarter and recent expansion into the Chinese, Japanese, and Afghan markets. Analysts agree that introducing the on-demand option will help the vendor extend even farther into the CRM space. "It was pretty much inevitable that they were going to get into that space. I think it was just a matter of when," says Laurie McCabe, vice president for SMB insights and business solutions at AMI-Partners. McCabe believes that 3.0 will continue to grow, but that Live will serve as a complimentary application, extending the Microsoft user population to include those looking for an SaaS option. By using the same code base as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, partners will be able to develop prepackaged solutions and deploy them for their customers across all three deployment options. The depth of integration between the different solutions will allow customers to switch seamlessly between deployments, Microsoft claims. Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, says that the Live option can work as an end solution in itself or as "an incubator until customers are ready to move forward." The on-demand version of Microsoft Dynamics will be tailored primarily for small businesses, but will be usable by companies of any size. Programs allowing partners early access to Microsoft CRM Live will start in the second half of this year, and after the release the product will be available through subscription on a monthly basis. "This year we'll be lining up business partners for CRM live, which will prepare us to launch live," Wilson says in explaining the reasoning behind the 2007 release. He says that this waiting period will give Microsoft's partners time to prepare to provide both vertical and customer tailored applications. However, McCabe cites the late release as potentially problematic, as other vendors have already established themselves in the on-demand space and will continue to develop their solutions during this time. "This will now get them into deals they weren't in because customers were looking for a software as a service option, but this isn't a slam dunk by any means. They are still going to have to compete with the functions and features that other vendors already provide." Related articles: Gluing Office to Enterprise
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