FrontRange Solutions Inc. will release a new suite of applications this fall built entirely on Microsofts .Net framework.
Code-named Orion, the new application will compete head-on with Microsofts MSCRM application, which is expected in the fourth quarter of this year.
Ironically, FrontRange president and CEO Patrick Bultema previewed Orion during this mornings keynote by Daniel Lewin, corporate vice president of Microsofts platform strategy group at the DCI Customer Relationship Management Conference and Expo in Boston.
Lewin spoke about the "real-time enterprise" that Microsofts .Net framework would enable and mentioned Microsofts own MSCRM product, which the company says will be the first business application fully architected in .Net.
Then he ceded the stage to Bultema to talk about FrontRanges product, which will offer the same integration capabilities that Microsoft is boasting for its own product, demonstrating the delicate dance Microsoft is doing as it attempts to enter the low-end CRM market without alienating other software companies it wants to have develop their products on .Net.
Bultema said Orion would have improved interoperability with Microsoft Office applications, and through Web services support it would integrate with other business applications in the customers environment, virtually identical claims that Microsofts Microsoft Great Plains division and its partners and customers have made for MSCRM.
"That integration can be a troubling thing to do today," said Bultema. "[Orion] integrates with Exchange the same as Outlook does." He said this was important to provide integration between CRM applications and calendar and mail applications.
"Microsoft is the dominant infrastructure in our marketplace," said Bultema. He said FrontRange has 120,000 small-to-midsize customers today for its CRM applications.
During the rest of the keynote, Lewin explained how Microsofts .Net architecture and the XML Web services that its based on would break down the walls between disparate applications in a customers environment, creating the "one degree of separation" that Microsoft touts in its current .Net advertising campaign.
"Its not going to be hard to do," said Lewin. "The bigger challenge will be understanding the business issues."
He said the .Net-centric world Microsoft envisions will reinvigorate the software industry by cutting down on costly and lengthy software implementations and system integrations.
"The next three to five years are going to be incredible for this industry," he said.
Not all attendees at the show were convinced that Lewins vision would be so easy to achieve though.
"Im not sure how easy XML is going to be to implement with our current software and databases," said Tim Muir, business analyst in the database management and business analysis department at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Littleton, Mass. "Wed have to rebuild everything so that its XML-based. I dont know how feasible that would be."
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