Microsoft yesterday announced the general availability of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 with a large laundry list of enhancements.
Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta) is one of Microsoft’s poorly delineated family of mid-market enterprise resource planning products that were obtained by acquisition and then left to snooze profitlessly in Microsoft Business Solutions. Microsoft had high hopes for mashing together all the odds and ends in MBS under the Dynamics brand and sharing a combined underlying framework called "Project Green," but the bloom was soon off the latter rose and only the brand remains. Still, Dynamics AX might be viewed as a triumph of sorts:
AX 9000 also represents the start of Microsoft’s new strategy of CRM software "harmonization," adopted after the failure of Microsoft’s Project Green, an initiative to move components from its various CRM products to a single Web services-based environment.
Instead, Microsoft now plans to "harmonize" its CRM offerings through increased adoption of SQL Server and the .NET Framework across AX and its other CRM product line-ups: Dynamics GP, NAV, and SL.
So the developers continue to beaver on supporting their existing customers and perhaps bagging a new one here and there, but the financial results, if they are in fact positive, are buried by Office with which Dynamics shares the Microsoft’s Business Division.
Last week Microsoft held their Convergence 2007 soiree for their Microsoft Business Systems customers and announced a package linking Dynamics ERP to Office and the upcoming availability of Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0 and Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0.
They also trotted out CEO Steve Ballmer to demonstrate the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM service targeted at Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce.com. You may recall that it has a rather checkered history involving Microsoft competing with partners for the hosting business.
I wish I could get more excited about the MBS family of products which were all solid if unexciting businesses until Microsoft took them over, at which point they settled into mostly profit-free lassitude despite promises of a grand convergence via Project Green. Now, we can’t even tell how they’re doing since they have been folded into the Windows Business Division (i.e. Office), but it is hard to believe that it is much better.
While Steve Ballmer may be excited about competing with long time partner SAP and the others (see also Barbara Darrow’s report), a relevant question is why they don’t just spin MBS off when it would likely be better for both parties.
In Munich today, Bill Gates kicked off Microsoft’s first Convergence Conference for EMEA and used the occasion to tout how the Microsoft Dynamics solutions fit into the overall Microsoft picture including the “Live” push:
In his keynote speech Gates also outlined the vision for Microsoft Dynamics in the “Live” era that takes business productivity to the next level by deeply integrating Microsoft Dynamics and the Microsoft Office system with online services that accelerate user adoption and maximize the value people get from their business applications. Key elements of this vision follow:
Online business processes from Microsoft and its partners will give customers a rich set of choices when they decide to move a particular process online in a secure environment. The first set of processes that will be available online are the marketing, sales and service capabilities offered within Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM. These will be followed by additional services:
Microsoft adCenter integration is a service that enables Microsoft Dynamics CRM to create online marketing campaigns that place keyword advertising on MSN®. In addition, similar integrations to Yahoo! and Google can be made by Microsoft Dynamics partners. Integration with Microsoft adCenter will be offered for all deployment options of Microsoft Dynamics CRM: on-premise, partner-hosted and Live.
eBay integration allows on-premise Microsoft Dynamics AX customers to use eBay as an online sales channel, enabling easy placement of inventory and downloading of financial details for sold items.
There’s more by following the link including online collaboration services and communities.
And speaking of online, the other big news was that Microsoft announced a new hosted subscription licensing model for Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics SL. Julio De Villasante, Director of Software as a Service Strategy, Microsoft Dynamics:
Another missing piece of the puzzle has been the availability of new licensing models that allow a company to choose between purchasing the solution or subscribing to a monthly service. This is what we are able to deliver today through our ecosystem of Microsoft industry partners. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been available as a hosted application since last March and it has been extremely well received by partners and customers alike.
Now, our partners can also deliver the full suite of Microsoft Dynamics ERP applications, in either a hosted or on-premise deployment model – and they have the option of purchasing, subscription licensing or a combination of both. The grand finale to this offering is that there is no minimum time commitment; customers can sign up for a short time period, such as a few months, or as long as they would like.
Microsoft ran into a conflict with partners already offering hosted Dynamics CRM in July when they rolled out their own offering and it looks like they have consciously avoided that this time around by leaving it solely to the partners. Of course, that’s what the partners thought back in March when hosted CRM was first announced.
Update Nov. 7: Microsoft also announced Dynamics CRM 2007 which, among other enhancements, works with Vista and Office 2007 and has an additional licensing model. It will be released at the same time as Office 2007 and will be a free upgrade for exisiting customers.
Microsoft Corp. today announced the Business Ready Licensing model and the Business Ready Enhancement Plan for Microsoft Dynamics™ that introduces simplifications and improvements in value to the licensing and maintenance programs for its Microsoft Dynamics business management solutions.
Business Ready Licensing streamlines pricing for Microsoft Dynamics solutions — Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft Dynamics SL — by moving from a pricing model based on hundreds of modules and granules to a new model based primarily on the number of concurrent users who actually use the software. This new model has three simple offerings: Microsoft Dynamics Business Essentials, Microsoft Dynamics Advanced Management and Microsoft Dynamics Advanced Management Enterprise. They are based primarily on common functionality and represent a price reduction for a typical entry-level configuration, eliminating much of the complexity of licensing enterprise resource planning software. Designed to increase value for customers through the life of their product solution, the new Enhancement Plan represents a global maintenance program for Microsoft Dynamics solutions and introduces new benefits such as transition investment credits, unlimited online training courses for customers, and resources to connect customers with the Microsoft Dynamics community.