Redmond Rolls Out its MS CRM Roadmap

Microsoft has big plans to enhance its CRM suite through 2006. But don't expect its next major milestone, version 2.0, until mid-2005, company officials said here at its annual Microsoft Business Solutions conference on Monday. Holly Holt, group product manager for MS CRM, provided press and analysts attending Microsoft's small/mid-size business (SMB) conference with an update to the company's CRM roadmap. Microsoft has more than 1,600 MS CRM customers, company officials said, with each customer averaging 25 seats per installation. H&R Block is Microsoft's largest announced CRM customer, with 1,500 users, according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has 400 independent software vendor partners who are adding extensions to and/or reselling its CRM product. Microsoft shipped its 1.2 release of MS CRM in December 2003. In the third calendar quarter of 2004, Microsoft plans to release the first of its mobile add-ons to MS CRM, via a new module called "Sales for PocketPCs."

The Sales for PocketPC product is a stripped-down version of MS CRM optimized to run on PocketPC handhelds. It is focused on addressing sales force automation needs, and will provide users with a way to keep track of contacts and accounts, opportunities, activities and their notes, Holt explained. The Sales for PocketPCs module will run atop Microsoft's SQL Server for Windows CE database for mobile devices, Holt said. The Sales for PocketPC technology will allow users to synch up with their full-fledged MS CRM systems over a VPN, wireless LAN or connected LAN, but it won't run on GPRS wireless devices yet. About 20 beta testers are working with a beta version of the Sales for PocketPC code (the beta version is called "CRM Mobile"). Pricing has yet to be announced.

At the same time as it is working on its mobile enhancements, Microsoft is readying the first beta of its MS CRM 2.0 release. Last fall, Microsoft told partners to expect MS CRM 2.0 to ship in the third quarter of 2004. Now, Microsoft executives are predicting the 2.0 release will ship in the second calendar quarter of 2005.

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News source: Microsoft Watch

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