Microsoft Touts .NET to CRM Crowd

David Thacher, general manager of global CRM for Microsoft Corp., used this week's DCI conference in San Francisco to position the company's .NET architecture for delivering Web services as a key linchpin for CRM.

Web services are a way of developing software to expose some business functionality over the Internet using industry standard protocols like SOAP and XML.

Notably absent from Thacher's keynote address were more details on MS CRM, which entered its second beta release this week and is due out by the end of the year. However, the software giant was showing the latest version of its first entry into the CRM space at its booth on the show floor. MS CRM will be Microsoft's first application built to leverage the .NET framework.

Thacher's choice to tout .NET to the CRM crowd came on the heels of last week's announcement that enterprise CRM leader Siebel Systems Inc. expanded its partnership with Microsoft by two forming an alliance to push a Web services agenda.

Announced at the Siebel Worldwide Users Conference in Los Angeles, CEO Tom Siebel said the company's applications would support .NET and that the company plans to invest nearly $250 million in development and marketing of .NET as a platform for its CRM applications. The alliance includes collaborative development, global marketing, advertising and sales, and support for corporate customers.

Microsoft has spent the past two years drumming up support for .NET, and cofounder, chief software architect, and Chairman Bill Gates has publicly said the company is betting the farm on the framework.

"Every software company should be supporting .NET and standards-based platforms for integration," says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Wellesley, MA-based Nucleus Research.

While most mid-market CRM vendors have embraced .NET, many enterprise CRM players are opting for Sun Microsystems's rival architecture, Jave2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), or hedging their bets by supporting both .NET and J2EE.

Microsoft's Thacher also says that to date, hundreds of third-party developers, resellers, and systems integrators have signed up as CRM partners. He expects that following the launch of MS CRM the number of partners will be close to 1,000.

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