Summertime For BizTalk, Live CRM Debuts

At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver today, Microsoft said September will mark the next release of its business process management server. The company also announced an early access program and pricing for its upcoming Live CRM offerings.

Along with promising a firm ship date for BizTalk Server 2006 Release 2 (R2), the company also announced an edition of the product for the branch office that ties into the enterprise release.

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 adds integrated support for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, as well as native support for electronic data interchange (EDI) and Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), according to company statements.

The RFID features are crucial to supply chain applications.

“Supply chain [support] is a key theme of the release [because of] real-time communication with RFID devices, [that work] like a plug-and-play environment,” Burley Kawasaki, director for Microsoft’s connected systems division, told

Pricing for R2 Standard Edition costs $8,500 and supports up to two CPUs. Branch Edition costs $1,899 per CPU and will also support up to two processors. The branch package works in a “hub and spoke” scenario teamed with R2 Enterprise Edition, which costs $35,000 per processor — though there is no limit on the total number of processors.

Microsoft officials think the Branch Edition will appeal to a lot of enterprise customers.

“If you drive a forklift into a shelf and damage a bunch of inventory, that doesn’t normally get rippled back through enterprise systems very quickly,” Kawasaki said. “We think [Branch Edition] has the capabilities to power service-oriented architectures (SOA) at the edge of the enterprise.”

Microsoft also announced a discounted six-month promotional package that it will begin offering when R2 ships. Dubbed the SOA and Business Process Pack, it will combine BizTalk Server 2006 R2 with Office SharePoint Server 2007, Visual Studio Team System, SQL Server 2005 and the .NET Framework.

The company claims it now has more than 7,000 customers for BizTalk Server.

Additionally, yesterday, Microsoft officials announced pricing and early availability for its Dynamics Live CRM-hosted offering. The Live CRM Customer Early Access Program is set to start this summer and will run through the rest of the year. The service will be free during the early access period, the company said.

Microsoft’s first two offerings under the Dynamics Live CRM aegis will be Professional, which will cost $44 per user per month, and Enterprise, which will add offline data synchronization to Professional’s feature set and will cost $59 per user per month.

However, Professional, which will provide “full-suite CRM through Microsoft Outlook and browser clients, [as well as] customizable workflow powered by Windows Workflow Foundation,” will only cost $39 per user per month in 2008.

The first Live CRM service to be available will be hosted by Microsoft, while on-premise and partner-hosted versions are slated to debut during the fourth quarter of 2007.

As Microsoft transitions to its touted software plus services business model, it is also modifying its partner engagement model to coincide with the changes.

Under the new model, partners will be compensated on a recurring basis, not simply once. Each year, partners “will receive 10 percent of the yearly hosted CRM subscription revenue for each customer for whom they are the partner of record,” a company statement said.

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