Industry prepares for Microsoft CRM's arrival

Microsoft Corp. is poised to launch its closely watched CRM (customer relationship management) software, prompting customers and industry rivals to brace for the arrival of a package that could prompt an upheaval in the CRM sector.

The suite, due to be released by Christmas, is the first major built-from-scratch offering of Microsoft's newly constituted Microsoft Business Solutions unit, created by combining acquired vendors Great Plains Software Inc. and Navision Software A/S with Microsoft's own bCentral information portal group. It's also the company's first application built on .Net, Microsoft's much-hyped but nebulously defined platform for systems integration and Web services.

When Microsoft announced in February its intention to enter the CRM market, initial industry buzz was that the move could spell trouble down the road for CRM powerhouses, particularly Microsoft partner Siebel Systems Inc. But analysts, other vendors, and Microsoft itself say that for the time being, Microsoft's CRM package will appeal mainly to entry-level CRM buyers.

"The real opportunity for a company like Microsoft is to apply its skills around sales and marketing, and that really means going into the low end. For the most part, the big vendors have never really focused much there at all," said Jim Shepherd, a senior vice president with AMR Research Inc., in Boston. "Companies in the (US)$50 million to $200 million range will absolutely see Microsoft competing there."

Microsoft CRM will include account activity and history tracking features, reports, order management functionality and communications tools. The software will integrate with Microsoft Office 2000 and Office XP applications.

News source: IDG - Industry prepares for Microsoft CRM's arrival

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