Microsoft's MS CRM Launch Delayed
Microsoft Corp.'s much-anticipated Microsoft Business Solutions CRM will miss the 2002 delivery mark set by the company and instead be available in "early 2003," according to company officials.
"Microsoft, their beta customers, and their partners are currently testing Release Candidate 1 (RC1) and will shortly move to testing RC2," a spokeswoman says. "They anticipate gathering final feedback in January, with release to manufacturing and general availability following the completion of testing."
Microsoft did not give any specific reasons for the delay or cite whether the release will be out at the start or at the end of the first quarter of 2003.
Kelly Spang, a research director with Current Analysis, says the fact that Microsoft came out in March and said the product would be available by the end of the year put a lot of pressure on the company. "But for customers this is not a big deal to wait a couple extra weeks or a month," she says. "It's the media scrutiny that is the problem for Microsoft."
Spang says Microsoft has done the right thing by spending so much time focusing on beta customers and getting the testing in place over the past several months.
Tom Racca, vice president of sales and marketing for iQ NetSolutions Inc., a 30-employee software company in Westboro, MA, who has been beta testing MS CRM since August anticipated a slight delay. "I would be surprised if they made it be the end of the year," he says. "We are getting a new beta release candidate to be installed later this month."
Racca says the early stages of the product had a lot of problems that have since been smoothed over and improved. "Microsoft's history is that early betas are not that good, but each beta release gets exponentially better. They are great at fixing and changing things really quickly," he says.
Although Racca is more than enthusiastic about MS CRM, he did site a lack of integration with back-office products. As a user of many of Microsoft Business Solutions offerings, including Great Plains, that concerns him.
Spang says integration is a big concern: "If it doesn't work with Great Plains then why bother?"
Microsoft officials say support for back-end applications is further down the road. The first release of MS CRM will not support Microsoft Business Framework, a .Net-based architecture that offers a common user interface and development environment across all Microsoft business applications.
Most rivals anticipate an inevitable shakeup when the software giant finally enters the market. Many have spent the past 10 months bracing for the release by updating marketing messages, fortifying sales pitches to potential customers, and solidifying development plans.
Analysts expect Microsoft's CRM competitors to seize the delay as an opportunity to bash Microsoft. "Competitors have been saying negative things about Microsoft in the CRM space since the second the product was announced," Spang says. "This is just more fodder for the competition to question the reliability and quality of the product."
The international release of MS CRM that was originally set for the second half of 2003 is still on track, according to company officials.