Debuts Office Edition announced Wednesday that its CRM solution, Winter ’04, now links seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications. The new service, called Office Edition, will be available as of Thursday evening at no extra charge to current users and will not cost extra for new subscribers, either.

A spokesperson noted that the service, which pipes CRM data into Office applications, does not include the Microsoft Office suite itself. Subscribers already must own or license Microsoft Office to take advantage of the new interface.

“ Office Edition is a great example of how partners can build on top of Microsoft Office to create new productivity solutions for customers,” said Gytis Barzdukas, director of Office Product Management at Microsoft. “Using Microsoft Office as a client for CRM data allows companies and teams to be more productive and efficient by easily accessing and using the latest customer information throughout their spreadsheets, documents and presentations.”

The Power of sforce

The new software works by integrating real-time information generated by with Word, Excel and Outlook. According to the company, its sforce on-demand application server provided the structure necessary to achieve this integration.

Peter Gassner, general manager of’s sforce division, told the E-Commerce Times that the sforce platform and its Web services APIs act as key enablers to allow software to interact with Microsoft Office.

“In the context of our Office Edition, if you look at Microsoft Office sitting on the desktop and the service running on servers on the Internet via sforce Web services API, sforce provides the mechanism for Office to interrogate and pull data from, asking what reports are available for this user,” Gassner said. The user then can attach that data to an Excel worksheet or ask what fields are available for a proposal being generated from inside Word.

Competitive Need

CRM industry analyst Denis Pombriant told CRM Buyer that Office Edition provides additional validation of’s vision and functionality through its ability to integrate standard, off-the-shelf applications into hosted ones.

At the same time, Pombriant noted, needed to do this because competitors like Siebel are integrating their own products and sharing desktop space with Office. He said he views the announcement more as a competitive move than an effort by to strut its stuff.

“Microsoft owns the desktop [with Office], and smart vendors know it is important not to wage war with that,” Pombriant said. “It’s more important that the end user is given the convenience of a well-known interface to work with.”

The Upshot

Yankee Group senior analyst and Microsoft expert Laura DiDio told CRM Buyer that the upshot of the new Office Edition is that it is good news for customers and for Microsoft.

“It offers concrete evidence that third-party ISVs are utilizing Microsoft’s APIs to build Web-based applications that can integrate with Microsoft’s core Office productivity suite, and this also augurs well for furthering the .NET platform,” DiDio said.

“The fact that was able to build the application and integrate it within Office will certainly not go unnoticed by other application vendors and [will] provide an incentive for them to follow suit,” she added. “Applications are the lifeblood [of] and [are] necessary to the success of Microsoft’s Windows and Office platforms.”

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