Microsoft Dynamics CRM Cloud, HP Collaboration Marked Microsoft's Week

Microsoft made yet another foray into the cloud with its Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and displayed some of its collaborative work with Hewlett-Packard, during this week.

Microsoft's week centered on the cloud, with the worldwide launch of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online platform-the company's hope for blunting similar competition from Oracle and

A Jan. 17 statement by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer emphasized the cloud platform's "familiar user experience, enabling greater collaboration, streamlining of processes and access to real-time data." The release comes at a time when and Oracle have been making very public their own product-line updates and swipes at Microsoft's market position.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service became available Jan. 17 for customers in 40 markets, with an on-premises version scheduled for release Feb. 28.

While Oracle's marketing strategy has focused increasingly on the supposed benefits of its integrated hardware and software stack, and widely touts its CRM's focus on real-time social networking, Microsoft is emphasizing how its cloud CRM leverages other Microsoft software such as Office. According to the company, these "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 has been pushing aggressively into the cloud space over the past few months. Other platforms 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 on Oct. 19, with general availability expected in 2011. The release comes as Microsoft's other big opponent in the cloud arena, Google, pursues federal and large-enterprise contracts for cloud-based applications.

Even as it geared up its competitive profile, though, Microsoft also announced a new collaboration with Hewlett-Packard, with the two companies on Jan. 19 publishing a roadmap outlining their launch plans for four new converged appliances.

The four appliances are based on HP servers and run Microsoft software. They include HP Business Decision Appliance, HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange Server, HP Database Consolidation Appliance and HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance. In theory, they will all streamline configuration, deployment and management in ways that reduce IT complexity-to the point where, also in theory, IT teams could deploy business-critical applications in as little as one hour.

The appliance announcement is part of the two companies' three-year $250 million partnership announced in 2010. It also follows the November launch of the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse appliance, which simplifies data-warehouse deployments and integrates with the Microsoft Business Intelligence platform.

This week also saw substantial executive shakeups at two major Microsoft competitors. Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced Jan. 17 that he would be taking a leave of absence for health reasons, while Google CEO Eric Schmidt indicated he would hand over the reins to company co-founder Larry Page. Both those announcements are significant for Microsoft insofar as they affect the search and mobile-device markets, where Redmond is seeking headway via initiatives such as Bing and Windows Phone 7.

But whether those CEO adjustments will ultimately play into Microsoft's attempts to gain more share in those markets remains to be seen.