Microsoft CRM Gets Refresh

Version 1.2 is the company's first international release of its flagship CRM product

Last month Microsoft Corp. released an interim version 1.2 of Microsoft CRM, which it launched last January. CRM 1.2 is Microsoft’s first international release of its flagship CRM offering.

The new version brings Microsoft CRM up to speed with support for several Microsoft platform products that shipped since the 1.0 version—Windows Server 2003, Windows Small Business Server 2003, Microsoft Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003.

At the same time, the company released to manufacturing non-U.S. versions of Microsoft CRM in five non-U.S.-English languages, including International English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The software giant expects that the international versions of Microsoft CRM 1.2 will be generally available in the first quarter of 2004, after which time it plans to introduce Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, and Dutch support for CRM 1.2.

Microsoft CRM is aimed at small and medium-size organizations and at departments within large organizations. It is part of Microsoft Business Solutions, the division that grew out of the Great Plains acquisition.

Because the company has adroitly enlisted support from resellers and ISVs, analysts say the nascent CRM product is poised to become a serious contender in the small and medium enterprise (SME) market. “In less than a year since the first version of its CRM solution was introduced, Microsoft Business Solutions is quickly becoming a serious contender in the SME CRM applications market,” confirmed Kelly Spang Ferguson, principal CRM analyst with research firm Current Analysis, in November.

Microsoft CRM 1.2 also boasts improved reporting with Business Objects’—nee Crystal Decisions'—flagship Crystal Enterprise 9 reporting suite and an enhanced development environment for Microsoft’s Outlook client, among other features. The bottom line, says Spang Ferguson, is that Microsoft CRM has emerged as a viable threat to more established—and in most cases, more feature-rich—competitive offerings. “Microsoft is creating momentum that will be difficult for competitors to derail, considering that in less than a year Microsoft Business Solutions has more customers than some CRM competitors have acquired in their existence,” she observes.

Microsoft appears to be on a yearly release schedule for its CRM product. A Microsoft spokeswoman says the next version of CRM is tentatively scheduled for release in December 2004.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.