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Microsoft Lays Out ERP Roadmap

A week after the controversial disclosure that Microsoft had been in merger talks with ERP giant SAP, Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled the roadmap for its own fledgling bundle of four ERP products.

Rather than detailing features coming in each of the products as new versions are rolled out over the next year, Microsoft chose to discuss five broad goals the company will build into each. "These five product development themes transcend our individual product lines and focus on providing customers with holistic solutions to their business problems," Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, said in a statement.

Microsoft's five ERP themes are improving total cost of ownership, building adaptive processes, empowering users, connecting businesses and bringing insight.

None of the themes directly point to scaling up to reach enterprise customers, leaving Microsoft's intentions cloudy just after the company publicly acknowledged initiating merger talks with SAP late last year. Microsoft revealed its talks with SAP just as Oracle was about to unveil them in court, where U.S. antitrust officials are seeking to block Oracle's $7.7 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft.

Regulators fear a merger would hurt ERP competition. Attorneys for Oracle argue that Microsoft and Lawson Software are viable competitors in the ERP market. The SAP discussions suggest Microsoft hopes to reach enterprise customers whose needs go beyond the capabilities of Microsoft's current portfolio of mid-market products. Microsoft says the talks with SAP ended and will not resume. SAP officials have said the talks never advanced beyond preliminary stages.

During its roadmap discussion, Microsoft officials said the first release to incorporate the five themes is Microsoft Great Plains 8.0, which is coming out this month. Next is Microsoft Solomon 6.0, scheduled for release in July. Microsoft Navision 4.0 is planned for later this year and Microsoft Axapta 4.0 is on tap for next year.

Great Plains provides out-of-the-box financial management with a broad set of add-on solutions. It is aimed at mid-market companies across all sectors. Axapta is a more specialized solution that adds advanced manufacturing and supply chain management to core financial management for upper mid-market companies or enterprise divisions. Navision provides financial management for the lower mid-market to mid-market segments. Distinguishing features of the Solomon financial management product are a focus on North American organizations and strengths in project management, accounting and distribution.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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