Mike Ricciuti has the buzz at CNET:
Microsoft plans to launch a new hosted CRM service under its expanding Live brand next year.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, a hosted alternative to its on-premise CRM software, is set to debut by mid-2007 as part of a revamped product code-named Titan.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, is expected to make the announcement here Tuesday at a conference of roughly 8,000 of its business partners.
The service, the third major category under the Live brand, joining Windows Live and Office Live, underscores Microsoft’s ambitions in the business software market. Company executives have said it could represent Microsoft’s next billion-dollar business.
Actually, I make it the fourth after Xbox Live, but who’s counting? There also already some major players like Salesforce.com, SAP, and Oracle/Siebel in the hosted CRM space as the article notes, so this isn’t going to be a pushover, but it’s yet another indication of the seriousness of Microsoft’s “Live” initiative.
Update: The announcement has taken place and the above article is now slightly different at the original source. Here’s the press release:
Building on the market success of Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM 3.0, Microsoft Corp. today announced the roadmap for the next major release of its Microsoft Dynamics CRM products, including a new software-as-a-service offering called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live. The Microsoft® CRM Live service will be operated and managed by Microsoft within its Windows Live™ datacenters, and will offer Microsoft’s partners another fast and flexible way to address the unique customer relationship management (CRM) needs of each customer. Microsoft CRM Live will use the same code base as the on-premise and partner-hosted versions of Microsoft CRM, a strategy that reinforces Microsoft’s leadership in allowing customers to choose the best deployment option for their business and IT needs at any time. The full range of Microsoft CRM products is part of Microsoft’s vision for business — the People-Ready Business — and the new Microsoft CRM Live service will be integrated with Microsoft’s Windows Live services and Office Live services.
Microsoft confirmed that Microsoft Dynamics CRM continues to enjoy extremely rapid growth across all segments, geographic regions and industries, and has added more than 50,000 new users in the most recent quarter. The current version of Microsoft CRM is completing its international language rollout, including a May launch in China and a launch this quarter in Japan. At its Worldwide Partner Conference 2006 in Boston today, Microsoft also demonstrated a new open-source client for mobile devices that will be available in August and reconfirmed its plans to release a new Microsoft BizTalk® Server-based integration this quarter that will connect Microsoft CRM to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and CRM applications from other vendors such as Siebel Systems Inc., SAP AG and Oracle Corp.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live is planned for introduction in North America in the second quarter of 2007, and will be offered as a range of service offerings on a monthly subscription basis. There is no limit to the number of users that the system can support, but it will initially be targeted primarily at small businesses, a segment that has traditionally been underserved by the lack of flexible and cost-effective CRM solutions. Early access programs that allow partners to have access to the new Microsoft CRM Live service will begin in the second half of 2006.
There’s lots of interesting grist for the mill there, but it’s still unclear if this is really a new “Live” category or just a one-off. Also, back in March Microsoft announced a hosted version of Dynamics CRM 3.0 to be “deployed by hosting partners around the world”. Now any hosting partners who took them up on it are in competition with this new offering.