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Microsoft To Offer Software-As-A-Service CRM This Summer

Hosted CRM already is available through Microsoft business partners, but the company plans to directly sell an offering it's calling Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live.
Microsoft will offer its customer-relationship management product via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, but interested customers will have to wait until summer. The company will announce today it's starting to preview its next-generation CRM product to business partners, and expects to have it available for purchase in the third quarter.

Microsoft has been talking about Titan, which represents its first big push into SaaS, for about a year. Hosted CRM already is available through Microsoft business partners, but the company plans to directly sell an offering it's calling Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live that's based on Titan (also called Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0), it's next-generation product. Titan was built on what Microsoft calls a multi-tenant architecture, and is designed to work for both SaaS and on-premises deployments.

The company says that about three hundred partners in its Technology Access Preview program will be able to kick the tires on Titan in the first quarter, followed by 1,000 partners in the second quarter. During that time, Microsoft says it expects partners to be building vertical apps based on Titan, SaaS mash-ups, and integration connectors.

Still, Microsoft won't budge from its neutral stance on on-premise software versus SaaS. "For us, it's really a matter of expanding our reach into the broad market, being able to reach more customers," says Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "We are incredibly committed to software as a service." Still, most Dynamics CRM customers have the software on premise, he says. Wilson adds that CRM is the "first one" to go live as an SaaS offering from Microsoft, indicating that other enterprise-resource planning apps from its Dynamic software group are under consideration.

However, CRM is viewed as one of the most practical applications for SaaS. Titan could give Microsoft, which began selling CRM four years ago, the ammo it needs to better go up against Salesforce.com and others in the SaaS-based CRM market.

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