REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft executives on Wednesday formally announced the role-based Microsoft Dynamics initiative, formerly known by the code name Project Green, as well as confirming that Office 12 was on track to ship in 2006, even though it has not yet gone into beta testing.
The announcements came as the software giant hosts some 700 of its partners and customers at its campus here for its Business Summit, which is designed to aggressively promote the software giants push into the midmarket segment.
Orlando Ayala, Microsoft Corp.s senior vice president for the Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner Group, told attendees in his opening remarks here that the theme of the Summit was, “Together we build business.”
The midmarket is a unique market and, from Microsofts perspective, is defined as those companies with between 50 and 1,000 employees, Ayala said.
There are some 1.4 million such companies globally, which represent 31 percent of the global economy and are growing at 7 percent annually, he said.
“We at Microsoft believe in role-based software, and Office is leading the charge in that regard,” Ayala said, before introducing Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect.
Gates took to the stage and first off expressed his concern and sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but pointed to all the people and technology companies that had rallied around them and were helping in the effort.
Gates then described the key developments that he said were driving technology forward, including the rapid growth in the performance of the “Wintel” technologies, in which processors were becoming ever faster and with more memory.
“We also have faster disk drives, with the cost of hardware coming down and performance rising. The performance of Windows on Intel machines is unbelievable, and weve seen this with 64-bit computing and in the database,” Gates said.
Gates added that the adoption of XML as a data format has also brought unprecedented new capabilities, and Web services are allowing new ways for software pieces to connect to one another.
There has also been more digitization of the economy every year, but a new generation of software is necessary to bring all of this together, he said.
Microsofts research and development spending on the basic platform around Windows, Office and the companys new role-based Dynamics initiative had been increased to a record level, he said, before formally announcing Microsoft Dynamics, formerly known by the code name Project Green.
Microsoft Dynamics will be rolled out in phases, Gates said, starting with Microsofts CRM software, the first to use this new name.
“We are talking about, and incorporating, role-based software in very broad terms. This brings the ability to define roles, then go in and edit them,” he said, adding that Office plays a crucial role in this regard.
In a demonstration of the upcoming Microsoft CRM 3.0, which uses Office as the platform in a role-based way, it was shown how the Microsoft CRM Outlook client allows all CRM data to be accessed without leaving Outlook, and a SharePoint Portal site could be viewed right from Outlook.
The demonstration also showed how data could be moved to a live and continually updated pivot table directly from its CRM application. Also on view was the new Quick Campaign feature in the next version of the CRM software, which allows users to customize and target quick marketing or sales campaigns to staff, assigning tasks and then allowing these to be tracked.
Gates Shares Release Schedule
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The second demonstration involved SOA (service-oriented architecture) and .Net; opening up Word and going to a sales form, using the Web Services in the CRM system and pulling all the data necessary to complete and update that form.
The demo also showed how an increased customer discount could immediately be given without leaving the document.
Gates told attendees that the level of investment going into the platform software was huge, building not just on Office but also on SQL Server, the richness of business solutions and the ability to connect to Visual Studio.
SharePoint is an increasingly important part of Office and had replaced the file servers of the past with a much richer environment, allowing business applications to do things dramatically better, he said.
“Office 12 is the foundation for many of these dynamic capabilities, but Windows is also part of the picture, giving fewer screens to deal with and a search capability that shows up through the interfaces of Office and the dynamic software. The vision is bringing these together,” Gates said.
Turning to Microsofts new midmarket bundle under development, known as “Centro,” Gates said this would be released in the Longhorn server time frame.
The goals were a unified set-up and management screen, automating the process and offering a package that simplified licensing for customers. This approach was very similar to the one behind the phenomenally successful Microsoft SBS (Small Business Server, the second edition of which had doubled the sales of the first.
“This has been a runaway success for us and it has thrived in that space as we keep taking feedback on roles and implementing that,” Gates said.
But there could be no single-server limitation, nor any limitations on the capabilities and richness of the technology in the midmarket space, Gates said, noting that Office 12 would be released in “early 2006” and adding that he had never been more excited about a release of Office than this one.
“This is the release of Office where you will see Business Intelligence built in, you will see presence information about people throughout the software. We are building up the richness through the idea of workflow sharing and building in business intelligence,” Gates said.
Gates suggestion that Office could ship in early 2006 goes against what other Office executives have said. Chris Capossela, the corporate vice president of the Information Worker division at Microsoft, told attendees at Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this year that the first Office beta would be made available to a small group of several thousand this fall, followed by a far larger second beta, which will be made available to a million or so users next spring. The final product will ship in the second half of 2006, he said.
Ending with the road map for Microsoft Dynamics, Gates said the first wave would bring the role-based user experience, along with SharePoint-based portal and workflow, SQL-based contextual Business Intelligence and Web services-based composition and integration. The second wave would bring the vision of modular process configuration, he said.