Magazine article CRM Magazine

Microsoft Says 2.no: Version 3.0 Focuses on the SMB Market with Hosting Options, Outlook Integration, and Marketing Automation Tools

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Microsoft Says 2.no: Version 3.0 Focuses on the SMB Market with Hosting Options, Outlook Integration, and Marketing Automation Tools

Article excerpt

Microsoft has scrapped plans to launch its highly anticipated Microsoft CRM version 2.0 to make way for version 3.0. The double upgrade is part of the company's efforts to expand its presence into the small business market, after more than two years of focusing on the midmarket. The enhancement, Microsoft's most significant since it entered the CRM market in the first quarter of 2003, will be available to its roughly 4,000 existing customers in Q4 of 2005, and made generally available in Q1 of 2006. This comes about one year after version 2.0 was last intended to ship. Why abandon 2.0? According to Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft CRM, skipping version 2.0 comes at the behest of partners and customers who preferred to wait for a more robust offering. Enter 3.0.

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To reflect the company's expanded focus on the SMB market, Microsoft CRM 3.0 will include a hosting option that enables customers to rent before they buy, Outlook integration, and marketing automation tools. The company will offer a low-cost, hosted, monthly subscription model through its business partners for small companies looking to test the CRM waters. NaviSite (a Microsoft solutions integrator), for example, already has a hosted pricing agreement with the company in which it charges companies $99 per user, per month if they own a license, $122 if they don't. Moving forward, pricing will be set by individual partners and could vary based on the degree of customization. "SMBs are looking for a hosted model, but a more flexible model than Salesforce.com," says Vernd Leger, NaviSite's vice president of marketing. "A lot of companies want to get up and running quickly, but they're not sure if they eventually want to bring it back in house in two to three years."

SMBs want to feel comfortable using a CRM product within a familiar Outlook experience, Wilson says. …

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