Microsoft Corp.s plans to "federate" its .Net MyServices could spur adoption of the Web services by enterprise customers who want to deploy them in conjunction with their current applications rather than have Microsoft host them.
But the third-party CRM software and services companies needed to partner with Microsoft to deliver such services are mostly non-committal as to their level of participation in such a plan.
Adam Sohn, product manager for .Net platform strategies at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., said Microsofts plans to allow enterprise customers to host and run .Net MyServices, rather than manage the services itself, could also yield new development opportunities for software vendors, particularly CRM vendors, whose software, like .Net MyServices, handles customer interactions over the Web.
"Were giving [software developers] the ability to create new services on top of the platform and link up with [.Net MyServices] where they can add compelling value," said Sohn. "Its a tremendous opportunity for those folks."
Sohn said he expects pilot Web services from third-party vendors built on .Net MyServices to start showing up late this year.
Rodric OConnor, chief technology officer of Putnam Lovell Securities Inc., in San Francisco, said he welcomes the move by Microsoft, as he would rather access .Net MyServices through the service providers he deals with now than through Microsoft.
"To have the technology pushed down to the service providers but still have interoperability between the different services is a much more comfortable situation," he said.
OConnor said hes particularly interested in adding single sign-on capabilities, either .Net Passport or a competing service the Liberty Alliance Project is developing, if the two sides cant agree to a single standard.
"I can see the advantage of adding a single sign-on capability if its hosted at the application level rather than centrally stored somewhere," he said.
Officials at Onyx Software Corp. said they are already working on a pilot Web service that uses .Net MyServices technology. The Web service will help a homebuilders organization, which they declined to identify, coordinate communications among multiple building contractors.
Onyx officials said Microsofts decision to reconsider its delivery of .Net MyServices will speed adoption of the services by enterprises and third-party vendors. But most CRM software companies are taking at best a "wait-and-see" approach.
Pivotal Software Corp. CEO Bo Manning said Microsofts new Web services vision is a "very compelling" one for his company that could "level the playing field" among smaller and larger CRM vendors. But hes skeptical that that vision will become reality anytime soon.
"Its not going to change the world overnight," said Manning. "Itll be more of a three-to-five-year process. Were still in the early stages of standard setting."
Hosted CRM vendors who have built their current services on .Net are much cooler to MyServices, a reaction caused in part by the fact that Microsoft will soon become a competitor when it releases its MSCRM suite later this year.
"Were watching it and seeing what develops," said Keith Raffel, CEO of UpShot Corp. in Mountain View, Calif. "If we have to compete with and cooperate with Microsoft, then well have to make sure that whatever we do is best for our customers."
"Our plan right now is to stick with the [Microsoft Internet] Explorer XML API and XSLT," said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, which like UpShot is a hosted CRM service built on .Net. "We are not sure how we are going to incorporate MyServices into our architecture, if at all."
OConnor, a Salesforce.com customer, said he wouldnt be afraid to put pressure on his service providers to adopt the technology if and when he wants to use it.
"In the long term, when the services are available, it may make sense for them to adopt them," he said.