Microsoft Ups CRM Ante With Dynamics General Release

It’s official. With the general availability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft is now formally a player — a big one — in the online CRM space. Until now, the application was available only through the early access program Redmond launched in September 2007.

More than 500 customers and 200 partners accessed Dynamics CRM Online through that program over the past six months, according to Microsoft.

Price Is Right?

The general availability release seems almost anticlimactic, given that so many of its features and functions are the same as those in Dynamics CRM 4.0. Indeed, the only difference between the two is that the application is now run and supported in Microsoft’s data centers. Still, the first rollout of Dynamics CRM in Software as a Service mode will surely have an impact on the marketplace.

For one thing, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is priced to compete with Salesforce.com and other vendors, noted Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann. The Professional edition regularly costs US$44 per user per month, but an introductory offer shaves that fee to $39 per user per month. The Professional Plus edition is priced at $59 per user per month.

The release is “big news for the CRM industry,” Wettemann told CRM Buyer. “Microsoft has a lot of feet on the street already. Now, it needs to show customers that it can deliver value-add to their operations.”

Benchmarks for Progress

How Microsoft leverages its new partnership with EDS is one thing Wettemann will be watching as a potential gauge of success. Announced at Convergence last month, the tie-up has EDS marketing Microsoft Dynamics CRM to its global clientele as an enterprise application.

EDS’ services, which include consulting, implementation, integration, management hosting, contact center outsourcing andmanaged services, will allow clients to deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM in both the contact center and in a sales force automation implementation.

The partnership between the two will push Microsoft Dynamics CRM furtherinto the call center than it had previously been able to reach, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer last month.

Now, the EDS partnership will be doubly interesting to watch through the prism of the first Live rollout, observed Wettemann. “Watching how Microsoft collaborates and moves forward with its partners with a completely different business model will be very telltale.”

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