Microsoft has announced a major support upgrade, clearer road maps and a new financing option for its Dynamics range of business applications.
On the support side, Microsoft will offer five years of extended support beyond the five-year mainstream support period for its CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) and retail management products.
"Ten years in this industry is quite a long time," said Kirill Tatarinov, a vice president in Microsoft's division that deals with business applications, who introduced the programme during a keynote speech at Convergence 2007.
The plan, called Business Ready Customer Care, means customers won't necessarily be forced to upgrade. The price of the support will vary according to what software the customer has.
"We don't want customers to upgrade on our timeline," said Barb Edson, senior marketing director for Microsoft's Dynamics products.
Tatarinov said customers who still don't want to move to a new version of a Dynamics product can also buy custom support for older versions, which will extend support beyond 10 years.
"Should you choose to stay for whatever business or technical reason, we will support you," Tatarinov said.
Microsoft has also extended its premier support service to Dynamics. The service includes 24-hour technical support and can accommodate on-site visits. Microsoft's Dynamics line includes the ERP programs AX, GP, NAV and SL; its CRM application, and its Retail Management Solution products.
In another announcement, Tatarinov said the company will release a new version of its Dynamics products every two years, with a feature or service pack every year or so. He also said Microsoft will publish documents that give a clear roadmap of its forthcoming products up to 18 months in advance.
"We are committing to effectively give you a statement of direction for every product we will be delivering," Tatarinov said.
Microsoft hasn't hit the original deadlines it set for at least two software products in its Dynamics line. The company said on Tuesday that Dynamics NAV 6.0, one of its ERP applications for mid-sized companies, won't be released until the middle of next year. Also, Dynamics CRM 4.0, code-named Titan, is now due by the end of the year but was originally scheduled for release in June or July.
Tatarinov laid out Microsoft's roadmap for several Dynamics products. AX 5.0, which will include 500 new features such as VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and instant messaging, will be released between April and June next year.
Two other ERP products, SL 8.0 and GP 11, will be built on Microsoft's next release of its Office suite, called Office 14, Tatarinov said. Those products will ship within 90 days of Office 14, which is scheduled for release in 2009, he said. Roadmaps should be published soon for both of those products.
NAV 6.0 and Entrepreneur 2008, an ERP application for small businesses, will come out in the second half of next year. Entrepreneur will be expanded globally for 2009, Tatarinov said.
The newest version of C5, an ERP product used mostly in Denmark, will come out by the end of year.
On the financing side, Microsoft is adding a new financing plan that lets customers make fixed, regular payments for software under its Total Solution Financing program. That programmeis now in 14 countries and will be expanded to others, Tatarinov said.
Leasing terms range from 24 to 60 months, which should allow business more flexible money management, starting from about £35 per month, Microsoft said.