Microsoft upgrades its CRM applications

Microsoft upgrades its CRM applications

Microsoft last week announced the first upgrade of the CRM applications it released early this year. It said the upgrade includes improved setup tools and a simpler and more flexible user interface.

Users in North America can buy Version 1.2 of Microsoft CRM now. In addition, Microsoft plans to make the software available outside of North America for the first time. The upgrade will support nine languages and is due to be offered in 47 countries next month.

Microsoft CRM is aimed at small and midsize companies, plus departments or divisions within larger businesses. About 1,000 customers have bought the software since it began shipping last January, according to Microsoft.

Jeff Young, vice president of emerging retail and CRM solutions at the software vendor, said he and other officials are pleased with the number of installations thus far. He also said Microsoft has hit its initial target of fielding applications that end users will actually turn on. "One of the biggest holdbacks with CRM is the ability to get it from being 'shelfware' to get people to be able to use it," Young said.

But Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Microsoft still has a way to go, both technically and in terms of CRM market penetration. "Overall, we're hearing customers ask about Microsoft CRM, but not a lot of people (are) implementing," she said.

Microsoft has gained considerable mind share among midmarket users, said Steve Bonadio, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. But it doesn't have the capabilities of a full CRM suite at this point, he added.

And although Microsoft claims to have a 1,500-seat installation at tax services firm H&R Block Inc., Bonadio said the average deal for Microsoft CRM appears to involve about 20 end users.

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