Bill Gates To Talk 'Titan' Hostable CRM

Company chairman Bill Gates is slated to discuss a planned, true multi-tenancy CRM offering during his Monday morning Convergence '06 keynote in Dallas, several sources confirmed.

The software giant has been fairly mum on the plans. Microsoft CRM General Manager Brad Wilson late last year acknowledged to CRN that the company would offer a hostable CRM solution code-named Titan. Other than that, the only other detail shared publicly was that the offering is due 12 to 18 months after Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, which shipped in December, 2005. A spokesman reaffirmed those plans on Saturday.

Privately however, executives have talked more specifically about their plan to take on The current Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, is by most reports a big improvement over previous releases it but does not support multi-tenancy. That means a hosting partner must dedicate a full server to each account. Multi-tenancy would let the host more efficiently and securely put many accounts on shared server infrastructure.

Such technology is a must to make hosted CRM—by partners or ostensibly by Microsoft itself—a reality, several partners have said.

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The very existence of this product poses new issues for Microsoft. If the company, as many sources say, plans to host CRM upon customer request, it could open up new channel conflict. Not only has Microsoft recruited third parties to host its current CRM—ePartners and Navisite are the most prominent—but other Microsoft partners like Salesnet offer their own hosted CRM built on Microsoft foundations.

Some MBS partners acknowledge that Microsoft may have no choice but to offer the solution however the customer wants to buy it. If the alternative is for an account to go to, of course Microsoft will host, said one partner.

He and other partners said Microsoft has assured them that any Microsoft-hosted solution will be "revenue neutral" to partners. That ostensibly would mean that partners would provide—and be paid for-- the domain expertise and customization needed for the implementation. CEO Marc Benioff seemed flip when asked via e-mail for his reaction to Microsoft's plans. "They are unveiling hosted CRM again? Didn’t they already do that twice?" he asked.