Microsoft has invited software developers from 400 companies to participate in a community technical preview of the next version of its CRM product, Dynamics.
Announcing the preview on Thursday, Microsoft said it aimed to give developers an opportunity to start early development and testing of their offerings for the version of Dynamics codenamed CRM5. Among the invited companies are independent software vendors, systems integrators, hosting partners and value-added resellers (VARs).
The technical preview is available as on-premises software, as well as through pre-release versions of Microsoft Dynamics Online running in datacentres dotted around the world. Microsoft said it has made the software available globally in preparation for the expansion of Dynamics CRM Online into EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
Microsoft said in a 2008 blog post, early in the development process, that the next version of Dynamics would include advancements in solution management and better deployment of secure code on the server.
"With this next version, Microsoft is continuing to drive new levels of user productivity and collaboration, giving customers deep core CRM capabilities, low total cost of ownership, and fast and easy deployment options for their CRM applications," said Brad Wilson, Microsoft's general manager of Dynamics CRM, in a statement to mark the launch of the technical preview.
One UK CRM specialist that has signed up to the technical preview praised CRM5. While it said it could not give details of the product because of its involvement in the preview, Cambridge Online was optimistic about the prospects for the upcoming version. "It's a very good product. We love it," said Cambridge Online's business development director James Olds.
Olds admitted that Microsoft was "not necessarily an obvious choice for CRM from an applications point of view", but said Microsoft's move beyond traditional CRM of sales, marketing and services had "caused the market to look at [Dynamics CRM] as a good platform for developing complex environments".
Microsoft is to further its CRM development efforts by inviting a very select group of independent software vendors to Redmond in May 2010 to discuss CRM5 with its departmental vice presidents as part of a week-long xRM technical 'Acceleration Lab'. xRM is Microsoft's relationship management platform, upon which Microsoft CRM, Microsoft and SAP's Duet and other third party applications are built.
Microsoft said it planned to expand CRM5's technical preview later this year with commercial availability in the second half of 2010.