To Host or Not to Host: Is That Microsofts Big Question?

Microsoft "CRM Live" and "ERP Live" may not take the hosted-application shape that many company watchers, partners and customers expect. Instead, Microsoft may go for business mashups as the crux of its software-as-a-service push.

DALLAS—Will Microsoft ultimately get into the CRM and ERP hosting businesses, all in the name of "CRM Live" and "ERP Live"?

Microsoft channel partners already offer hosted versions of Microsofts CRM and ERP applications. And Microsoft announced on Monday some enhanced CRM 3.0 hosting programs for partners to its stable of offerings, including a new CRM Professional Edition for service providers.

Those same partners, customers and company watchers all have speculated that the Redmond software giant is planning to offer itself hosted versions of its Microsoft CRM, Great Plains, Navision, Axapta and/or Solomon wares.

Microsoft officials have been cagey about its intentions there. But company officials have made no bones about the fact they are planning software-as-a-service-style offerings that will fulfill the companys broader and evolving "CRM Live" and "ERP Live" visions.

Increasingly, however, Microsoft looks to be planning a very different route than other players in delivering software as a service.

"Software as a service [SAAS] is a very important trend," said Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates during his Monday morning keynote at the Convergence conference here. "We believe in it a lot."

Not surprisingly, unlike, which has built its business around the idea that "software is dead," Microsoft isnt equating SAAS with hosted software. Microsoft is pushing the idea that partners and customers want a full spectrum of offerings, ranging from traditional on-premise software, to services, to a hybrid.

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