Microsoft Unveils Developer Software For Hosted Apps - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Unveils Developer Software For Hosted Apps

Microsoft this week will move a step closer to having itsproducts prepped to deliver hosted application services. The vendor will reveal plans for a package of platform products and middleware called ClearLead that software vendors can use to write customer-relationship management Web applications for small auto dealers. Microsoft eventually will offer ClearLead services to other industries.

ClearLead, a software developers' kit scheduled for April availability, layers business-logic objects, templates for on-screen presentation of Extensible Markup Language documents, and other developer tools on top of Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system and SQL Server 7 database. The kit also includes basic CRM functions for auto dealers, such as paging to alert salespeople that new E-mail leads have arrived.

Microsoft will license ClearLead to CarPoint, its joint venture with Ford Motor Co. In April, CarPoint will release a version of its DealerPoint lead-management Web service that includes CRM capabilities built using ClearLead, says Microsoft product unit manager Alex Simons. Microsoft also plans to offer ClearLead as a CRM service directly to small businesses in other markets via its bCentral productivity Web site.

Microsoft will charge independent software vendors up to $15 per user, per month to license ClearLead, and small businesses $29 per user, per month for the bCentral service. Still, analysts question Microsoft's move from packaged software to a hosted model. Says Warren Wilson, an analyst at Summit Strategies, "Microsoft believes that it will make up in volume what it loses in unit price sales, but it's not guaranteed."

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