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Microsoft's CRM For The Divisional Set

Two years in the making, Microsoft is hoping to bridge the CRM gap with its competitors in its latest production.

Microsoft hopes to bridge the gap between its former CRM product, version 1.2 launched in December 2003, and what's been available for some time among its competitors, including SAP , Oracle , Siebel and Salesforce.com .

But the Redmond giant isn't looking to pick a fight with the large enterprise CRM systems with its update software, content as it is to let the others duke it out on that front. Dynamics CRM 3.0 is aimed at the divisional levels, such as a contact center, within the enterprise and with small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB).

Kevin Faulkner, senior director for Microsoft CRM marketing, said a straightforward, simple CRM solution tied to Microsoft Excel, SQL Server and other office tools makes much more sense from an ROI and total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective than a complex CRM system.

"We're out there to get to the mass of office workers who need CRM but not necessarily the sophisticated core set of users who need all the bells-and-whistles, or think they need all the bells-and-whistles, that the very highest, expensive solutions provide," he said.

As such, Dynamics CRM 3.0 is deeply integrated with Microsoft Outlook to give the software a familiar face with enterprise users. The software can also run using a Web browser independent of Outlook -- which Faulkner said looks a lot like the Outlook interface -- and has an interface available for mobile devices.

The Professional edition runs on top of Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes -- officials expect to include POP3 support in the future -- while the Small Business edition uses Windows Small Business Server.

Microsoft has opted out of providing its own hosted CRM solution, a la Salesforce.com or Siebel, and passed the service along to its 2,500 or so partners.

Service providers, hosting companies, software vendors and other partners can sign Microsoft's Service Provider License Agreement to host the software at their organization and resell to its customers. Rather than pay for the software with a traditional license or by the CPU, Microsoft charges a flat $24.95 per-month rate per user.

"We're really trying to encourage, with a low price and very straightforward terms, hosters to start to take advantage of the customer demand for on-demand and the on-demand delivery model," Faulkner said.

The International English version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 hits the shelves Tuesday in two editions, Professional and Small Business. Dutch, French, German and Russian versions will be available Jan. 1, 2006, with Japanese and Chinese versions shipping in the first quarter of 2006.

The Professional edition starts at $622 per user with one year of service while the Small Business edition starts at $440 per user with a year's service. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 is the first in the upcoming wave of Dynamics-based applications.

Dynamics CRM is the only software in what will become the Dynamics integrated business management suite to be sold as a standalone product.



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