Microsoft Rolls Out Mid-market CRM

The Microsoft CRM suite, targeted at small-to-medium-sized companies, will be the first business applications built on the .Net framework and will be accessible from both Web and Microsoft Outlook clients.

Microsoft Corp. will deliver by the end of this year a customer relationship management software suite to be known as Microsoft CRM.

The software suite will be the first business applications built on Microsofts .Net framework, according to company officials. It will be accessible from both Web and Microsoft Outlook clients and be targeted towards small-to-medium-sized businesses.

"Microsoft Customer Relationship Management fills a significant need for a single integrated view of customers that delivers on the promise of increasing customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and more profitable customer relationships," said Doug Burgum, senior vice president at Microsoft and president of Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions, in a statement posted on the Microsoft Web site late Monday.

Sold and implemented through the Microsoft Great Plains reseller channel, the software will be available as a standalone product or integrated with Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics, Solomon and eEnterprise back-office applications, officials said.

Microsoft CRM is expected to be available in North America by the fourth quarter of this year, worldwide by the first quarter of 2003.

It will be focused initially on sales and customer service applications, though Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., is expected to add marketing applications at a later date.

Microsoft CRM will be positioned between the companys bCentral Customer Manager service, which provides some CRM capabilities for small businesses with 25 employees or less, and the Microsoft Great Plains Siebel Front Office, which employs Siebel Systems Inc.s Siebel Mid-Market Edition, targeted to the higher end of the mid-market.

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of fast-growing hosted CRM provider, which figures to compete head-to-head against the new Microsoft offering, dismissed the competitive threat that Microsoft CRM could present.

"The MSCRM product is based on Outlook, is single tenant, and is software," said Benioff. " believes in an online service that is multi-tenant, .Net-based, and is subscription based. The world is moving towards utilities—not backwards to client/ server software."

Other CRM products Microsoft currently offers include iCommunicate, for online customer service, Microsoft Great Plains eEnterprise Field Service and Microsoft Great Plains Solomon Field Service.