Microsoft customers and partners, used to delays and extended timelines with the CRM product, got a different sort of announcement this week.
Redmond is pushing up the release date for Microsoft CRM 3.0 to early December.
"We were tracking weeks ahead of testing milestones," said Brad Wilson, general manager for Microsoft CRM. "We'll actually be generally available worldwide in the English version in early December and beat the end of the year."
Microsoft 3.0 was originally scheduled to be released to manufacturing in March. In February, it was pushed back to the fourth quarter of this year, with plans to make it generally available at the beginning of 2006. Thanks to the conservative guidance Microsoft gave the marketplace and "an impressive effort by the engineering team," the product will be ready early next month, Wilson said. Foreign language versions will be rolled out in the following months.
Despite the delays, the CRM application now has roughly 5,500 customers and 150,000 users. Last month, the company reached 3,000 partners with in-depth training on the product, Wilson said.
Microsoft shared the 3.0 code to several hundred partners and expanded that to several thousand in September, all of whom are providing feedback. The new release will feature tighter integration with Outlook and a simpler user experience. It will also feature marketing resource and campaign response management. Additionally, Microsoft will also be offering subscription-based pricing.
"I don't mind how my business splits between on-premise and software as a service," Wilson said. "It's really about whatever the customer wants. The product has always been architected as Internet native with a service-oriented architecture and entirely Web service enabled. You can pay for what you use as long as you want to use it."
Subscription pricing dovetails with Microsoft's announcement yesterday that it will offer a Web-based version of Office for small businesses.
"What you're going to see increasingly is Microsoft is doing what Microsoft CRM is doing," Wilson said. "Some people want to have on-demand or software as a service, and Microsoft is committed to bringing the right set of capabilities to market."