Ballmer Leads Microsoft’s Cloud CRM Charge

In a first for the product line, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer debuted the cloud version of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 release on Monday.

“Sales professionals are at the heart of almost every successful business,” Ballmer said.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives them a familiar user experience, enables greater collaboration, streamlines processes, and provides access to real-time data that helps them compete more effectively, he noted.

“This is an important release for the company and, of course, for Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” Brad Wilson, general manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM product management group, told CRM Buyer. Having Ballmer unveil the product “is an indication of Steve’s strong ongoing commitment to Microsoft Dynamics as a product family and CRM as a specific application.”

The on-premises and partner-hosted versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will become globally available on February 28, 2011.

Global Reach

This iteration of the product line differs from earlier versions in its global reach: It will be available in 40 markets and 41 different languages — in the cloud model, no less.

“This year we are making a big push for global markets,” Wilson said.

Markets in which it is available include Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Columbia, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The app has a number of new features that will enable it to better compete with such offerings as, including inline business intelligence access via fully drillable dashboards. The new version also interweaves business intelligence throughout the application with its guided process dialogs, Wilson said.

“At every step, users are able to navigate through the data to get the best information for a decision in real-time,” he noted.

Other features include a next-generation native Microsoft Outlook client, browser-based and mobile access to sales, marketing and service features, as well as role-tailored design and user personalization features.

It is interoperable with Windows Azure, Microsoft SharePoint and the new Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.

Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to enhance the interoperability of Dynamics CRM with other Microsoft products, in particular, makes the new version very attractive to end-users, Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann told CRM Buyer.

“The tight integration with outlook, the addition of calendar reminders — these are all important pluses for productivity,” she said. “Microsoft clearly recognizes its sweet spot, which is integration with Outlook and making the product easy to use with Microsoft Office.”

Competing With

The huge laundry list of new features — along with its competitive pricing — puts the application nearly on par with, Wettemann said. “It is significant that Microsoft is releasing the online version first, in order to show that it is also competitive in this channel.”

Pricing for new users is now a third or a quarter of the list price for, Wettemann pointed out.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is available at a promotional price of US$34 per user, per month for the first 12 months of service to global customers that sign up by June 30, 2011.

Microsoft is offering special pricing to and Oracle customers that switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online between now and June 30, 2011, under a “Cloud CRM for Less” offer.

More than 11,500 customers and 400 partners have used Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 during its beta stage. Some of them have since switched over from rival offerings, including, said Wilson.

New App Store

Microsoft is also launching an app store — now a necessary component to almost any software and mobile endeavor.

This will also help it play catch-up to, Wettemann noted — but in this respect, it has a long way to go to achieve parity.

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