Microsoft announced Monday that it has released to manufacturing the long-awaited update to its Dynamics-branded customer relationship management software (CRM).
Previously codenamed "Titan," the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM actually has two names in its final form. For on-premise, customer-hosted, as well as partner-hosted deployments, the product has been dubbed Dynamics CRM 4.0. The company will also be offering the package on-demand in a Microsoft-hosted environment that it has named Dynamics CRM Live.
Existing and new customers will be able to download the update when it's released on the Web this week, a Microsoft official told InternetNews.com. The Microsoft-hosted version, however, continues to run under the early access program that the company began in September.
Microsoft plans to take that version live during the first half of 2008, said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "[In the meantime,] more than 100 customers are using [CRM Live] at this point," Wilson added.
The release of Dynamics CRM 4.0 comes two years after version 3.0 shipped. CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated CRM Live – a.k.a. CRM 4.0 -- during his keynote at the company's Convergence 2007 conference in March.
Probably the most notable feature in CRM 4.0 is its so-called "multitenant" architecture, which enables a hosting partner, for instance, to run only one copy of the server but support multiple customers simultaneously and securely. CRM 4.0 also features support for 25 different languages and multiple currencies, although not all will be available immediately, according to a company statement.
Among other additions, the package adds business process automation based on Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation. It also provides new collaboration capabilities with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, such as real-time presence indicators within the CRM application, the statement said.
With the move to two different names for the same code base, the company is aiming to differentiate its Microsoft-hosted Live version from the partner hosted version partly by pointing customers who need custom application work and support to those partners.
At the same time, however, CRM Live is another step in Microsoft's emerging "software plus services" initiative – meaning that the company has to be careful not to step too much on partners who both sell the package to on-premise customers as well as host it for customers.
Wilson emphasized that its CRM partners have much more expertise in deploying and supporting Dynamics CRM, particularly in vertical markets. Additionally, Microsoft's CRM Live offering targets "small, five to 50-user deployments," at least so far, he added.
According to Microsoft, the English language pack will be available within seven days and another nine language packs will be released next month. The company plans to deliver the additional 15 language packs at a rate of four or more per month after that.