Microsoft details Business Solutions' road map

Microsoft on Monday gave an overview of forthcoming product updates from its Business Solutions group and talked up an expansion of its Microsoft Business Network collaboration initiative.

Products that will be updated this year include Microsoft CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Great Plains, Solomon, Business Portal and Navision, Microsoft said in a statement released at the Convergence 2004 conference for Microsoft Business Solutions users that started Monday in Orlando.

Microsoft CRM will be updated in mid-2004 with software that allows users to synchronize Pocket PC handheld computers with the CRM application, the Redmond, Washington, company said. The feature is especially aimed at sales people who will be able to carry CRM data with them and make changes while on the road, Microsoft said.

Great Plains and Solomon will get version upgrades in July: Great Plains 8.0 and Solomon 6.0. The new business applications releases will offer numerous enhancements, including better integration with Business Portal, which in July will get a point upgrade to version 2.5, Microsoft said.

In October, Microsoft plans to release version 4.0 of its Navision ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) product, the company said. The update will offer greater functionality for manufacturing and an improved user experience, Microsoft said.

At the Convergence event, Microsoft also discussed the Microsoft Business Network, a Web services collaboration framework it announced last year. The company has completed a test project with Inovis Inc. that allowed the Microsoft Business Network to send and receive documents using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) standards.

EDI is a technology used to exchange business data between trading partners that predates XML (Extensible Markup Language), the technology used by the Microsoft Business Network.

Adding support for EDI allows Business Network users to expand the number of trading partners, Microsoft said. EDI support will be offered through Inovis by the end of the year, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Business Solutions makes software to help small and medium-sized businesses manage supply chains, finances and customer relationships. Microsoft entered the business application market when it bought Great Plains Software Inc. of Fargo, North Dakota, in 2000 and expanded that with the 2002 takeover of Denmark-based Navision A/S.

The Convergence event in Orlando runs through Wednesday.