Microsoft Swipes at with Dynamics CRM Rebate

Microsoft is offering a rebate for any customer who switches from to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, as the business cloud battle continues to escalate.

Microsoft took a hard swipe at Dec. 6, in another sign that the traditionally desktop-bound company is upping its aggressiveness in the cloud arena.

In "An Open Letter to Customers," Microsoft dangles a $200-per-user rebate for any organization that switches from Salesforce to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. A special Microsoft Website also aggressively targets Salesforce's perceived inadequacies.

"In making the switch from other solutions, such as," Michael Park, a corporate vice president with Microsoft Business Solutions, wrote in that Dec. 6 missive, "you will join thousands of companies that have found that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is easier to use, adds value to the technology investments they've already made and delivers greater business insight."

Throughout 2010, Salesforce and Microsoft have routinely found themselves at each other's throat. Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Salesforce in May, alleging infringement of nine patents. In turn, Salesforce countered with its own lawsuit in June, accusing Redmond of violating five patents. The companies apparently settled their differences in August, with Salesforce agreeing to compensate Microsoft for its patents.

According to one analyst at the time, those lawsuits' effects on Salesforce could be long-lasting. "It means that Salesforce will likely have to change aspects of future products so they don't infringe on critical areas," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "Microsoft gets some money (likely not material) and enhances their reputation as a company not to be lightly messed with."

Nonetheless, CEO Marc Benioff claims that his company's model of cloud-delivered software remains superior to Microsoft's current offerings. During an Oct. 19 keynote talk at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010, he questioned his rival's ability to keep businesses up-to-date with their applications' latest versions: "How many SAP customers are on the current version?" he asked the audience. "How many Oracle customers ... how many Microsoft? Fractions. This model has to change."

In response to Salesforce and other cloud-based companies, and in order to actualize on its much-touted "all in" cloud strategy, Microsoft has been pushing the online version of its CRM-often offering add-ons and services at no additional cost, in order to better appeal to cash-strapped businesses.

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 launch Oct. 19, with general availability expected in 2011.

In addition to Salesforce, Microsoft is competing in the cloud arena against other heavy hitters like Google, which recently secured a contract to provide Gmail and Google Apps to the General Services Administration.