Microsoft Preps for MBN Debut

Microsoft Business Network, a partner-networking system, is set to go beta next month and gold in Q1 2003.

MINNEAPOLIS—Microsoft Corp.s Business Solutions division is preparing a first beta release of its B2B partner-networking software—Microsoft Business Network—for delivery in October, with the final product expected in the first quarter of next year.

MBN, a product developed by the Great Plains Software team within Microsoft Business Solutions, is a kind of electronic data interchange network designed to connect suppliers to their customers. Unlike a traditional EDI system, MBN will offer users a choice of HTML or XML to share their business documents and data.

On Thursday, Microsoft executives demonstrated MBN to some of the 2,000 reseller partners attending the companys Stampede conference here.

Underneath the MBN covers are Microsofts .Net Framework and BizTalk Server technologies, company officials said. MBN will provide transaction management via a Microsoft Outlook-based interface.

The first version of MBN will include built-in support for Great Plains software. (Great Plains is the new brand name Microsoft is using for the business-software products formerly known as Dynamics and eEnterprise.) Subsequent MBN versions will support Navision and other Microsoft Business Solutions applications, company officials said.

The first beta release of MBN will be tested by "two very large users," said Darren Laybourn, a vice president with Microsofts Business Solutions unit.

"MBN is addressing the last-mile problem for business-to-business users," Laybourn said.

MBN will look and feel a lot like PRM (partner-relationship management) software, he admitted, but will attempt to go beyond that.

"CRM five years ago probably felt a lot like this [PRM]," Laybourn said. "We need to make sure that it is addressing partners needs before we come out with it."

Read all about Microsofts Business Solutions plans in Microsoft Watch. Click here for your free 14-day trial.