Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, due for global rollout Feb. 28, will compete against CRM offerings from Salesforce.com and Oracle.
Microsoft's cloud strategy reached another stage Jan. 17 with the
announcement of a worldwide launch date for Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Online, the cloud version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM
2011. Both on-premises and cloud-based versions of the platform will be
available in 40 markets and 41 languages starting Feb. 28.
A Jan. 17 statement by Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer emphasized Dynamics CRM's "familiar
user experience, enabling greater collaboration, streamlining of processes and
access to real-time data." Microsoft finds itself locked in a fierce
battle for CRM market share with
Salesforce.com and Oracle, both of which have shown little hesitation in both
updating their products and sniping at their rivals.
In trying to set cloud products such as Dynamics CRM
Online apart from its rivals' CRM platforms,
Microsoft is emphasizing how customers who choose its cloud option can leverage
it in the context of other Microsoft software such as Office-in effect,
creating a software-centric competitor to Oracle's integrated
hardware-and-software stack. Microsoft executives also claim that this ability
to integrate features from other company software platforms gives its CRM
option more functionality than Salesforce.com, whose own CRM
focuses on real-time social networking.
According to Microsoft, those "connected experiences" include "Windows
Azure interoperability, contextual Microsoft SharePoint capabilities and the
new Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace." The company is also touting the
offering's real-time dashboards and in-line business intelligence capabilities.
Microsoft's battles in the CRM space have
become increasingly vicious. In December 2010, it took a hard swipe at
Salesforce.com, posting "An Open Letter to Salesforce.com Customers"
in which it dangled a $200-per-user rebate for any organization that switched
from Salesforce.com. Earlier last year, the two companies hurled
IP-infringement suits at each other, a situation that resolved in August with
Salesforce.com agreeing to compensate Microsoft for its patents.
In addition to online CRM, Microsoft's
other business-centric cloud initiatives include Office 365, which groups
Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online as a
subscription service. Microsoft released Office 365 in limited beta Oct. 19,
with general availability expected in 2011. Microsoft also competes in the
cloud arena against Google, especially over federal and large-enterprise
contracts for cloud-based apps.
Ballmer has insisted for months that his company is "all in" with
regard to the cloud services. "We have learned a lot through running
Windows Live, Hotmail, Bing," he told an audience during a
July 12 keynote address at last summer's Worldwide Partner Conference. "These
are some of the highest volume services run on the Internet today. When you run
a highly scaled, highly dynamic service, you need a whole new approach to
running a data center."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.