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Microsoft's 'Dynamic' Move From MBS

Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, outlined his company's business process automation strategy Wednesday.

At a keynote speech for the company's first business summit for midsized businesses, Gates outlined plans for Microsoft Dynamics, formerly Project Green.

"If we're going to empower people in the best way possible, we've got to get into actual business processes, into the business roles," he said in a Web cast of the event.

In the short term, Microsoft Dynamics is a re-branding of the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) line of software, ahead of its morphing into to the all-encompassing integrated business management suite that will include the technology foundation for 50 core job roles such as productivity, sales, human resources, marketing and IT management.

For example Great Plains, the technology tailored for mid-sized businesses gained through a $1.1 billion acquisition, is now Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Navision, similar to Great Plains but popular in Europe and acquired by Microsoft in 2002 for $1.3 billion, is now Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

The other products now under the Dynamics brand are Solomon, Axapta and Microsoft CRM. According to officials, business process applications like Microsoft Point of Sale, Microsoft Retail Management System and Microsoft FRx will keep their brand names.

The re-branded and updated applications will be shipped throughout 2006.

In the long term, a converged Microsoft Dynamics business management suite of individual MBS components will continue to deliver features tailored to meet the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses, large organizations and divisions within global enterprises, Gates said. The Microsoft Dynamics business management suite, incorporating the best features from the individual products, will be delivered in 2008.

Microsoft CRM, however, will continue to be sold as a standalone product, as well as within the Microsoft Dynamics suite.

While the company promised earlier this year to continue support for individual MBS products, it's unclear how long that support will last.

In a Web site Q&A on Dynamics, Tami Reller, Microsoft business solutions group corporate vice president, said that if customers have up-to-date licenses for MBS products, they will be able to migrate to Dynamics safely through the Transformational Assurance program on their own timelines.

Dynamics takes advantage of some specific architectural abilities that Microsoft is capable of delivering, Gates said, capabilities that its competitors can't provide. Dynamics will deliver deep integration with Office 12, the next version of Office due next year, as well as with Windows Vista. It will be tied tightly into the functionality of the SharePoint Portal Server and SQL Server Reporting Services.

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft introduced Centro, a new infrastructure product designed for midsize businesses. Centro will include Microsoft Windows Server Longhorn, the upcoming version of Microsoft Exchange, security technologies and integrated management tools.

Microsoft will launch a global advertising blitz to hype the Dynamics line, beginning in 2006.

The mid-market business is a key space for software vendors these days. Besides Microsoft, software giants like IBM are moving into the arena to garner market share. It was also one of the motivating factors behind Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft.