Ballmer talks up Microsoft’s CRM software as a service

Microsoft demonstrated Dynamics Live CRM, its planned hosted customer relationship management software, during the closing keynote address given by CEO Steve Ballmer at its Convergence show in San Diego.

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Microsoft demonstrated Dynamics Live CRM, its planned hosted customer relationship management software, during the closing keynote address given by CEO Steve Ballmer at its Convergence show in San Diego.

"I'm really pumped up," said an Ballmer, predicting a "real snowball” effect for Microsoft's entire Dynamics business, which is moving up into the enterprise applications space occupied by Oracle and SAP.

In a question-and-answer session at the end of his keynote, he also apologised for the way the company sometimes did not get the balancing in how much it charges for its software and in the complexity of its licensing. "I'm sorry if we did some things in Vista that increased the frustration," he said.

CRM Live is one of three deployment options in the vendor's upcoming Titan release of its CRM software. Titan will be the first Microsoft CRM release based on a multi-tenant architecture, using a single code base to support three types of usage - CRM Live, an on-premise version of the CRM application and a partner-hosted release.

CRM Live will be another member of the vendor's growing Live software-as-a-service (SAAS) product family, joining Windows Live and Office Live. "Live is our platform in the clouds," Ballmer said, adding that more of Dynamics will be featured in the future along with Live Search, Mail, Xbox Live and Mobile. "We're pushing the transformation to SAAS as fast as anyone around," he said.

Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, demonstrated Titan pre-release code running on Windows Live data centres in a browser and as an Outlook native SAAS application. He showed a mash-up between CRM Live and a mapping application.

Already in the hands of several hundred partners, CRM Live will begin being offered to customers initially in the U.S. and Canada in the third quarter of this year. The other two Titan deployment offerings will become available around 90 days later, Wilson said.

Pricing for the service and details on when CRM Live will be offered outside North America won't appear until around the time of launch of the service, Wilson said.

CRM is "the most enterprise-focused" offering in the Dynamics range so far, with some user installations ranging between 3,000 and 10,000 seats, Wilson said. Ballmer said the sweet spot for Dynamics ERP and CRM will be "small enterprises and down."

Ballmer reiterated Microsoft's commitment to maintaining its four Dynamics ERP families -- NAV, AX, GP and SL. "We take a long-term approach to all we do," he said. "We're just going to keep investing, investing, investing and investing."

The keynote included a concept demonstration of a manufacturing application running on a smart table, which was controlled by touch and gestures and searched via voice. The technologies on show will appear in various products in future, with the smart surface debuting in entertainment devices, Ballmer said.

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