Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online goes GA

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Microsoft will announce Tuesday that Dynamics CRM Online, the Microsoft-hosted
version of Dynamics 4.0, is generally available in North America.

Early access customers have been using the anticipated on-demand offering for
months. It will compete with the likes of Salesforce.com, which just made a
high-profile announcement regarding its integration with Google Apps.

"Our own data centers are now up and running, and we're open for business,"
said Brad Wilson, general manager of Dynamics CRM, in an interview.

Dynamics 4.0 is also available in partner-hosted and on-premises forms. The
three versions employ a common codebase, meaning users can move easily from
one mode to another, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has no plans yet to offer CRM Online outside of the U.S. and Canada,
although international expansion is "under consideration," the company
said. Some of its overseas partners already offer hosted CRM services using
Microsoft's software, it noted.

CRM Online, which was recently renamed from CRM Live, comes in two pricing
ranges. The Professional edition provides 5G bytes of storage and costs US$44
per user per month. Microsoft is running a special through the end of the year
that charges $39 per user.

The Professional Plus edition offers 20G bytes of storage and is priced at
$59 per user per month. "The only real functional difference is, Professional
Plus gives you offline [data synchronization]," Wilson said.

Customers will also have access to a Web services-based software development
kit (SDK) for conducting integrations: "You might have a portal built in
any kind of technology you want. You can reach out to our system and pull data
into your portal."

The pricing includes "full-suite" CRM, Wilson stressed: "We
don't nickel and dime you, we don't charge you anything to turn on marketing."

This is a key detail of Tuesday's announcement, said China Martens, a senior
software analyst with The 451 Group.

"What's new is Microsoft saying that that cost will include full CRM --
salesforce, service and marketing automation -- that will make the pricing very
aggressive," Martens said by e-mail.

While other software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers "pack a lot of additional
charges on top of their base prices," she said, "Microsoft isn't doing
that, which is a cool and important differentiator."

With CRM Online, Microsoft is also changing the way it has traditionally done
business, as it has traditionally sold its CRM offerings through partners, not
directly to customers.

Wilson stressed that the channel will play a key role in the launch.

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