Microsoft CRM Pushed Back To Late 2005

The company had indicated that the product -- at first called Microsoft CRM 2.0 -- would be out early in the second half of 2005. More recently insiders started calling it MS CRM 2005. That nomenclature may now be in jeopardy.

The release was held up to incorporate more partner-requested perks, said Brad Wilson, the brand-new general manager for CRM and a former executive from PeopleSoft and Epiphany.

"We have a very ambitious goal, to offer five clicks for standard installation. This is much more like desktop software than CRM," Wilson told CRN. "We want to sell to everyone, to flower shops in Australia and fish shops in Benelux. We want anyone to adopt and install it," Wilson said.

Such ease of use and installation is a double-edged sword for Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) partners, who are more used to higher margins ERP sales offer compared to volume Microsoft software like Office.

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One West Coast MBS partner said Microsoft shot itself in the foot by promising MBS exclusivity for MS-CRM, and then reneging. When the Redmond, Wash., vendor instead decided to offer CRM through broad distribution, resellers' margins fell.

"In Microsoft's mind, CRM is going very well. They claim 3,500 customers. I think they could have sold a whole lot more if they'd kept encouraging partners to sell it. We used to have a person here dedicated to CRM but no longer. It's not worth selling at 20 point margins," this partner said.

Microsoft executives had said they would rethink the margin issues, but have resolved not to tweak them.

One solution provider lauded the upcoming release because it offers more internal hooks to enable him to build customer-specific applications.

"What's exciting for us first is the platform has become more robust in terms of being able to handle workflow. We can create more customer-specific data and entities and there are more ways to manage workflow," said Long Duong, CRM Architect for Interlink, an Englewood, Colo.-based regional integrator.

The next CRM release will also add support for Japanese, Chinese, Norwegian, Finnish and Iberian Portuguese, bringing the total number of languages supported to 21, a spokeswoman said.