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Microsoft Launches Dynamics CRM Online

Microsoft rolled out its Dynamics CRM Online platform today as a generally available service. The rollout represents a challenge to Salesforce.com's hosted customer relationship management (CRM) offerings. It also represents a milestone in Microsoft's general "software plus services" strategy.

Under the company's software plus services approach, Microsoft is offering hosted solutions that are delivered to the customer over the Internet, plus traditionally delivered software that is installed and customized behind the firewall at the customer's premises.

User of Dynamics CRM Online (renamed from Dynamics CRM Live) will be able to access the application through a Web browser or through Microsoft Office and Outlook. The service uses new datacenters that Microsoft has been building around the globe. Organizations don't need to install or maintain the CRM software, and the service is offered at a monthly rate, rather than via up-front licensing fees.

Offering hosted solutions directly breaks from Microsoft's past reliance on its vast network of partners to install and customize solutions for organizations. A press release issued by Microsoft indicated that the new Dynamics CRM Online solution is "hosted and managed by Microsoft."

Organizations can order the Dynamics CRM Online service from Microsoft's Web site here. An order form accessed at that site has a checkbox to indicate if the customer is working with a partner, so presumably Microsoft's partner community will be involved to some degree, possibly to customize the CRM solutions, provide training or manage the accounts. All About Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley indicated that partner resellers of Microsoft's CRM will get "a 10 percent cut on all Dynamics CRM sales for the life of a customer contract."

Microsoft's initial software plus services plan called for Microsoft to host solutions for large companies, which Microsoft defined as having more than 5,000 seats. Under that same plan, Microsoft's partners were to host solutions for organizations with less than 5,000 seats.

Programmers at Microsoft apparently rewrote the entire Dynamics CRM solution to create the new online version, according to an InfoWorld story by Nancy Gohring. The rewrite was necessary to support the complexities associated with multitenancy, in which software hosted at a datacenter is customized and offered to multiple customers. Gohring quoted Tim O'Brien, Microsoft's senior director of platform strategy, who indicated that Microsoft is similarly working to rearchitect Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint as hosted applications.

Microsoft currently offers Dynamics CRM Online in two versions. It's available from Microsoft in the English language for markets in Canada and the United States. However, some of Microsoft's partners are currently offering the service in other markets. Microsoft plans to announce a rollout to the rest of the world at another time.

The Professional version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online costs "$44 per user per month" (or $39 at an introductory rate) and includes "5 GB of data storage, 100 configurable workflows and 100 custom entities."

The Professional Plus version costs "$59 per user per month." It's the same as the first version except organizations get "20 GB of data storage, 200 configurable workflows and 200 custom entities." The Professional Plus version has synchronization capabilities, allowing users work offline.

Microsoft claims that its Dynamics CRM Online service undercuts the prices of Salesforce.com's hosted CRM offerings.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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