Microsoft Unleashes a Titan
The wait is over for Microsoft diehards and Outlook addicts everywhere; the company announced Monday night it was making Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 (codenamed Titan) available for download to new and existing customers this week. This marks the end of a long development cycle punctuated by delays and by tantalizing hints of its ease of use and tight integration with Outlook.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM General Manager Brad Wilson announced personally to analysts and press Monday night that Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is completed and has been released to manufacturing. The English language pack will be available within the next seven days to new and existing partners and customers, followed by nine more languages in January 2008. Microsoft will release monthly packs of four or more languages until reaching its final tally of "more than 25."
The new version is offered under two product names: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 for on-premise and partner-hosted deployments, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live for Microsoft-hosted deployment. The latter, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, is available only in the United States and Canada, currently only to a limited number of customers in an early access program. Full rollout should follow shortly.
"We're excited to be able to get this into the market in Q4 2007 (as promised) and to deliver a single unified code base for on-premise and on-demand deployment models (including partner-hosted models as well as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live)," Wilson said in his note. "Microsoft Dynamics CRM is making the power of choice a reality for businesses around the world. This new release further enables us to deliver on Microsoft's software plus services strategy and provide our CRM solutions with a great user experience and exceptional business value."
Some of the benefits and capabilities of this new release include:
- Multitenant architecture;
- Global capabilities including support for more than 25 languages and multiple currencies;
- Business intelligence capabilities including cross-entity views and an end-user ad hoc reporting wizard;
- Business process automation based on Microsoft Windows Workflow; and
- Collaboration capabilities with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, including real-time presence indicators within the CRM application
Analysts are greeting the debut of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, both on-premise and hosted, with interest as well relief at the end of a long wait. "This is a great thing for them--they've been working on it for a long while, briefing analysts periodically over the past 16 to 18 months," says Sharon Mertz, research director at research firm Gartner. "We always knew they'd be out, at least by early 2008; they've had a number of partners working with an early release version for months."
"They said they'd do this by Q4, and Microsoft is infamous for slipping deadlines. It's a classy move from Brad [Wilson]," says Laurie McCabe, vice president for SMB insights and business solutions at research firm AMI Partners, referencing the nature of the announcement. In regard to the product, McCabe continues, "I like what I see. For people who are [Microsoft]-centric this is a painless way to deploy CRM. They've taken pains with the look and feel and the integration."
The partners--Microsoft's channel to market--are very excited to have something that lets them compete with companies like Salesforce.com, Mertz says. "Most partners' business models are tuned to custom development and services, and aren't accustomed to running a volume model. Microsoft knows the volume model; it's been running Hotmail in its data centers for years, and it's very easy to put CRM Live in another data center."
Microsoft still needs to be careful, however. "The opposing view is that competitors who had a systems and services model and tried to go to a volume model, such as SAP, Unica, and Sage, have not done well with the volume product," Mertz says. To that end, McCabe adds, "They're being careful, taking baby steps with the rollout so they can spot any kinks and do damage control."
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