Microsoft Adds to Its Applications Stable

Redmond's rapidly growing Business Solutions division also unveiled new pricing, packaging and financing options aimed at 'business decision makers.'

MINNEAPOLIS—Microsoft continued to add to its growing stable of applications software on Tuesday by adding two new "industry solutions" to its Microsoft Business Solutions portfolio.

At its Stampede 2002 reseller conference here this week, Microsoft unveiled a Professional Services Automation (PSA) and point-of-sale Retail Management System to its Great Plains/Navision/bCentral family of products and services. These two solutions are similar to a number of other vertically-targeted "accelerator" bundles that Microsoft is selling through its solution-provider partners. Both bundles are aimed at "business decision makers" in small businesses, mid-size users and low-end corporate customers, company officials said.

PSA is based on Great Plains Solomon accounting software and Microsoft Project 2002. It provides services firms with resource management, project management, knowledge management, time and expense management, project accounting, financials, and reporting and analytics functionality.

The PSA offering will ship in the fourth quarter of 2002, with pricing to be announced later.

The Retail Management System is based on the QuickSell line of products from Sales Management Systems (SMS), a company Microsoft purchased recently. The bundle integrates the SMS point-of-sale applications with Microsofts Great Plains and Small Business Manager financial applications.

The Retail Management System is available immediately. Pricing starts at $1,290.

At the Stampede conference, Microsoft made a number of other announcements, including a new customer-financing program, aimed at providing capital to small- and mid-size businesses to help them afford Microsoft Business Solutions products; a new, more unified way of packaging the myriad Great Plains and Navision product lines; and a new policy of publishing its application software prices (and discount information), in order to streamline its pricing policies and end price haggling.

Microsoft officials also announced that the company is combining its Great Plains Dynamics and E-enterprise applications into a single solution that will be named "Great Plains" and that it is changing the Navision Attain products name to "Navision" in order to capitalize on the brand recognition of Great Plains and Navision.

Microsoft executives told the nearly 2,000 partner attendees attending the conference that the company considers these announcements "market-changing moves."

Officials also said that the company is on track to launch its customer relationship management product, MS-CRM, in December of this year. Microsoft is showing off its Beta 2 release of MS-CRM at the show, as well as some of the functionality that will be in Office 11, its next release of Office due in mid-2003.

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