The launch date for Microsoft CRM 3.0 has shifted again, and the application is now set to launch in December instead of early next year as was previously planned.
Version 3.0 was originally scheduled to be released to manufacturing in March 2006, but was then pulled back so it would be generally available in January 2006. Now the release is slated for general availability in early December, although that only applies to the English version. Foreign language versions will follow.
The earlier release date is a result of a combination of conservative guidance and Microsoft being ahead of its testing milestones. Several hundred partners have been testing the code and providing feedback since September, and there are also several early-adopter customers.
Although the CRM product is gaining traction, with 5,500 customers, 150,000 users, and 3,000 partners, Microsoft failed to make the impact it expected when it launched into the area in January 2003. The decision to skip version 2, initially set for release in April or May 2005, and move straight to version 3 was indicative of the difficulties the company has had breaking into the sector.
Version 3.0 will bring improved Outlook integration, and marketing resource and campaign management functionality. It will also be covered by Service Provider Licensing Agreements, which will allow for subscription-based pricing and facilitate the hosted deployment model. This aspect has gained more significance in the light of the Microsoft Live announcements, which represent Microsoft’s first direct step into the software-as-a-service domain. The first wave of Live services will be desktop applications and will not include CRM, but over time Bill Gates said that virtually all its software would be available either on a server or as a servicem, and the company has briefed its partners about a hosted CRM service.
Version 3.0 is .NET-based and web service-enabled, which will facilitate its deployment as a service over the internet. It also has a single-tenant architecture, which means only one customer can be hosted per instance, as opposed to the multi customer-capable multi-tenant architecture used by hosted CRM providers Salesforce.com and RightNow Technologies. This will have an effect on how the Microsoft product is provided as a hosted service. Microsoft will follow something similar to the hybrid model employed by Siebel Systems, which runs hosted alongside the traditional on-premise licensed model, with the ability to migrate between the two.