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3/23/2006
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Microsoft Strengthens Industry Focus

A new online directory lets customers search through over 5,000 third-party products by industry, geography, or Microsoft product.

Microsoft Corp. has made 5,000 industry platforms available through two tools--Microsoft Solution Finder and Microsoft Industry Builder--the company said Thursday.

Microsoft Solution Finder, an online directory, allows Microsoft Dynamics partners, developers, and customers to search through more than 220,000 Microsoft Certified Partners by industry, geography, or Microsoft product.

The directory gives customers and partners access to more than 5,000 solutions. About 2,000 are tightly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics business management applications, including financial management, customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain, and Microsoft Retail Management System.

Microsoft's shift toward specific industries demonstrates a significant change in strategy. "We invest millions of dollars every year, and now more than half is being aligned through vertical marketing efforts for partners," said Craig McCollum, vice president of worldwide sales strategy for the Microsoft Business Solutions group. "This is a significant shift for us, because two years ago we weren't doing that at all."

Each product is validated with two customer references to ensure quality, McCollum said. "We call the references to confirm they are using the products," he said. "Then we turn on the solution within the tool for others to use."

Through the solutions finder, Microsoft also can identify unfulfilled product areas.

Along with the online search service, Microsoft is building a community of independent software vendors (ISVs) to participate in an Industry Builder program.

Through the program, originally announced in December, these ISVs develop market-driven applications and services. Microsoft said customers have just begun to use these products. Gold Kist Inc. and Heritage Bag Co. have gone live with a product called Process Industries for Microsoft Dynamics AX developed by Fullscope Inc. About 45 partners have signed on in 12 geographies.

The newest solution is for the retail industry. Retail Chain Manager was developed by industrial manufacturer To-Increase, the software division of Columbus IT Partner USA Inc.

Microsoft-certified partner Blue Fox Enterprise NV has also signed onto the Industry Builder initiative with a platform for the textile and apparel industry. It's scheduled to launch later this year with Microsoft Dynamics AX, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool.

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