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DENVER—As Microsoft continues to ramp up its Live software and services strategy, the company will use its annual Worldwide Partner Conference here July 10 to showcase its new on-demand Dynamics Live CRM service, which will be operated and managed within its datacenters and available later this quarter.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant will also announce the start of an early access program for Dynamics Live CRM later this quarter, as well as new pre-configured Dynamics CRM vertical templates for the public sector and manufacturing industries.

The Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM service will initially be offered in North America, although there are plans for an international expansion, and will use the same code base as the on-premise and partner-hosted versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Brad Wilson, the general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, told eWEEK.

Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM is based on the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, code-named “Titan,” a multi-tenant application platform that supports deployments in on-premise and partner-hosted environments as well as via the new Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM service, he said.

Microsoft first unveiled Dynamics CRM Live in 2006. Click here to read more.

More than 600 global partners are currently working with pre-release versions of “Titan” as part of Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program. The Titan release will first be deployed for customers via the Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM early access program this quarter, with the on-premise and partner-hosted versions planned for the fourth quarter of 2007.

The first two service offerings will be Dynamics Live CRM Professional and Enterprise. The Professional service offers a full-suite CRM through Microsoft Outlook and browser clients, customizable workflow powered by Windows Workflow Foundation, and rich configuration and extensibility capabilities, Wilson said.

The service will cost $44 a user per month, but will be offered at a promotional price of $39 a user a month during 2008.

The Enterprise service has all the capabilities of the Professional product as well as offline data synchronization, at a cost of $59 a user per month. It will be available in the first half of 2008.

The early access program, which will start this quarter and run through the rest of the year, will use the Enterprise version of the service at no initial cost. Once the early access period ends, normal service fees will apply, Wilson said.

Read more here about Microsoft’s release of ‘Titan’ code to select partners.

Users of the enterprise version will also be able to have twice as many custom objects in the system, and more workflows, he said, noting that “we’re going to have very generous limits for those as we offer them, but enterprise will have twice as many as professional.

“We also think that most people will rarely hit the limits, even on the professional edition, because we’re going to have, for instance, 100 custom objects in the system: that’s 100 new custom entities in the system in the professional edition alone, so you’ll get even more than that in enterprise version, but 100 objects is a ton. I mean, that’s a ton of new stuff,” Wilson said.

The program is initially targeted at companies with five or more CRM users, and customer signup will be offered through Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s network of certified partners.

More information about applying for the program is available here.

Next Page: Treading on Partner Territory

But, by offering its own hosted service, Microsoft is venturing into territory that has previously been the exclusive domain of its partners. The Dynamics line of financial, customer relationship and supply chain management solutions are delivered through a network of channel partners providing specialized services.

Click here to read more about Bill Gates’ Dynamics Live vision.

As such, Microsoft is spinning the move as positive for its partners who, it says, will have new opportunities to deliver value to their customers and to drive revenue for their businesses.

These new partner opportunities include developing and deploying solutions across the three deployment options: Live, on-premise and partner-hosted models. There is also a new partner engagement model for the Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM service, Wilson told eWEEK.

Live partners will be compensated on a recurring basis rather than on a one-time basis as is customary, receiving 10 percent of the yearly software-as-a-service subscription revenue for each customer for whom they are the partner of record, he said.

As an incentive to encourage partners to support Microsoft’s Live CRM service, partners are being offered 15 percent of the subscription revenue for 2008.

“The beauty of it is no matter how you deploy it as a customer, if you want to change and go from on-premise to a hosted deployment, it’s the exact same code, the exact same database. If you want to [go] from in the cloud to on-premise, it’s the exact same product,” Wilson said.

“So, the ability to migrate across these models is hugely attractive. A big part of our development strategy is to give people that unified option, where we abolish any arbitrary barriers as to how customers do it, and we give them what we call the power of choice,” he told eWEEK.

This meant that customers could, at any given point in time, align the technology to support their business, based on their specific requirements.

To read more about the Dynamics CRM Analytics Foundation, click here.

“It’s also what Bill Gates calls a server/service symmetry. So, whether you buy this as a service or buy it as a server-based product, it’s the exact same thing. And so it gives people a ton of choice in that area, the same configuration, same customization, same Outlook and browser experience. But whether the server goes from down the hall to across the firewall is completely transparent to your people,” he said.

Microsoft also is using the conference to share its vision for a new partner solution marketplace, which will be a focal point for partners to market and sell solutions: allowing Dynamics CRM partners to market on-premise and on-demand solutions by product type, region and industry, while the solutions presented on the partner marketplace would integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM and provide immediate customer benefits.

The two new vertical templates being showcased at the conference include reference data models, pre-defined workflows and roles-based user experiences that make Microsoft Dynamics CRM immediately relevant to customers in these industries, Wilson said.

The templates are designed to work with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 today, and will be updated for the upcoming release at the end of the year. The templates will be available by the end of July at no charge to partners and customers, while vertical templates for other industries will be delivered over the next year.

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