Microsofts New Weapon

Don't underestimate Microsoft's business solutions unit.

When evaluating Microsofts evolving battle plan for software domination, dont underestimate its Business Solutions unit.

The unit combines the companys Great Plains, Navision and bCentral groups. It supports 250,000 customers and works with 900 software developers, according to statistics Microsoft touted at last weeks Stampede conference for resellers.

A year and a half ago, prior to its acquisition of Great Plains, Microsoft wasnt playing in the ERP, CRM or SCM software markets. Now, after a $2.4 billion spending spree, Redmonds raring to take on new customers and competitors. As those who have competed against Microsoft know, once Microsoft sets its sights on conquering a market, it wont quit until it wins. By virtue of its Great Plains and Navision acquisitions, Microsofts got a panoply of well-established business software to sell. And while Business Solutions wont deliver the first release of its MS-CRM suite until December, it wont take Microsoft long to use price and volume to wrest sales from companies such as SAP and Siebel.

In addition, Business Solutions is developing component technology called the Microsoft Business Framework, which Microsoft is expected to fold into its .Net infrastructure. Business Solutions has even more projects up its sleeve, such as a .Net-based EDI network called Microsoft Business Network and a Business Portal offering designed to deliver access to Great Plains and Navision self-service apps via the Web.

Some dismiss Business Solutions, claiming that its only a small-business/midmarket competitor. At Stampede last week, Microsoft made no bones about targeting the "bottom" of the corporate market. It wont take Business Solutions long to go from a bottom feeder to an enterprise shark.

Mary Jo Foley is the editor of Ziff Davis Medias Microsoft Watch. For more on the people, products and strategies that make Redmond go round, sign up for a free 14-day trial at