New CRM Live To Be Available Direct From Microsoft

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Some 12,000 partners are in Denver to hear what's new from Microsoft, and so are ChannelWeb reporters. Our ace software team of Stacy Cowley, Rick Whiting and Kevin McLaughlin are all in Denver tuning in to the keynotes and walking the floors. Look for posts from all three of them right here in TalkTalk. This one comes from Stacy Cowley:

Microsoft unveiled the long-awaited tactical details of its CRM Live service today, announcing per-month pricing that undercuts rivals and Siebel CRM OnDemand and revealing its plans to give partners a recurring 10 percent margin on subscription fees for all customers they refer. But the company downplayed one key piece of news that may spook partners: Customers will be able to buy CRM Live directly from Microsoft, with no partner involvement.

Microsoft is in the process of introducing a CRM Live early adopter preview program, to which access will only be opened to customers working with select channel partners. But when CRM Live formally launches for general availability in the first half of 2008, it will be available directly.

"We still do want to encourage people to work with partners. I think the average company deploying CRM would strongly benefit from having a partner involved," said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "But we also won't stop people who want to do direct self-service."

Microsoft stirred channel controversy four years ago when it made Microsoft CRM available through volume licensing, broadening its distribution beyond the Microsoft Business Solutions subset of its partner network. CRM Live will take access a step further, allowing customers for the first time to buy Microsoft business applications directly from the company.

The partners most directly in CRM Live's crosshairs are the several dozen partners that already offer hosting services for Microsoft Live. At least one, though, isn't worried: TriVenture CEO Randal Southam said he doesn't expect CRM Live to cut into his hosting business at all.

"CRM Live is multi-tenant. We only do single tenant. If you want to integrate CRM with any other application, you need to come to a partner like us," said Southam, whose Seattle-based company supports 225 hosted CRM customers.

Southam estimated that 95 percent of the customers TriVenture works with need services more advanced than what CRM Live offers. For smaller companies seeking basic CRM deployments, CRM Live may be a good fit -- in which case, TriVenture will refer than on and collect its referral fee, he said. Its paltry referral fee.

"Ten percent of $44 a month -- that won't even buy me a beer," Southam noted. "It's all about services."

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