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Dynamics CRM Ready For Its Close-up?

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Posted April 22, 2008 By Stuart J. Johnston     Feedback

Microsoft rolls out its hosted CRM solution, but it's also a harbinger of what's to come.

Attention Microsoft customers waiting to try out the company's (NASDAQ: MSFT) hosted CRM offering: The wait is over.

The software giant began delivering its Dynamics CRM Online service today, a Microsoft-hosted version of the company's Dynamics CRM 4 customer relationship management software.

Dynamics CRM Online, which Microsoft first demonstrated in July at its Worldwide Partner Conference, was originally named Dynamics CRM Live. However, Microsoft changed the name in March to more closely identify the branding as part of its Dynamics Online product offerings.

The hosted Dynamics Online products are a part of the business side of its "software-plus-services" initiative, which aims to transform the company from strictly a software provider to a model that provides software as services via a computing "cloud" built to use the giant datacenters the company is working to set up around the world.

In order to help distinguish the Microsoft-hosted Dynamics products from editions of the products that can be purchased for hosting internally by customers or by third-party providers, Microsoft has added the "Online" label.

To date, the company is only offering CRM as a Microsoft-hosted Dynamics Online application but that will change, CEO Steve Ballmer told attendees at the software giant's Convergence 2008 conference in Orlando, Fla. last month.

"[CRM Online] is not the only service that we plan from Dynamics in the software-plus-services space," Ballmer said at the time. "You should expect to see more from us in ERP and other areas as we move into the future."

The other side of Microsoft's software-plus-services push is a collection of online services that the company has dubbed "Live," which are mostly free or ad-supported services directed primarily at consumers.

While CRM Online is the first Dynamics-branded product that the company is selling as part of its Microsoft-hosted Online services for business play, however, it's not the first offering to bear the "Online" services moniker.

Last fall, the company began testing hosted versions of Exchange e-mail, SharePoint document management and collaboration software, and Office Communications. Those services were initially available to large businesses with 5,000 or more seats, but the company has since said that it will provide hosted solutions to all sizes of customers.

Microsoft is offering two product packages for Dynamics CRM Online customers.

Dynamics CRM Online Professional provides integrated CRM functions, along with 5 GB of online storage, 100 configurable workflows and 100 custom entities, for $44 per user per month, the company statement said.

Meanwhile, Dynamics CRM Online Professional Plus provides offline data synchronization, along with 20 GB of storage, 200 configurable workflows and 200 custom entities. The Plus edition costs $59 per user per month.

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