Microsoft aims to make Dilberts more 'Dynamic'

New product for Office is aimed at getting more people within each business to use Redmond's software.
Written by Ina Fried, Contributor
Although Microsoft would like to get more companies to adopt its Dynamics software, its latest strategy is aimed at getting more people within each business to use its products.

The software maker is announcing Monday a new product that uses Microsoft Office to access data stored inside one of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. In addition to offering a more familiar interface, the latest offering will cost significantly less than a full Dynamics license.

Expanding use of the software to more people is important, said James Utzschneider, general manager. He points to an AMR Research study that found only 15 percent of people in a typical business have access to their company's ERP data.

"How is the software going to transform these businesses if only a select few are using it on a regular basis," Utzschneider said in a telephone interview last week.

Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office, as the product is known, will sell for $195 per user, while a higher-end version, which also includes a license for Windows SharePoint Server, will sell for $395 per user. A full license to one of the Dynamics programs could easily run a few thousand dollars.

The effort to tie Office closer to back-end systems is not limited to Microsoft's Dynamics. The company has also released a program called Duet, developed with SAP to link that company's ERP products to Office.

In addition to the new product for Office, Microsoft is announcing plans to deliver new full versions of several of its ERP products. The announcements come as Microsoft kicks off Convergence, its annual conference for Dynamics customers and partners, which takes place this week in San Diego.

Microsoft said that Dynamics NAV 5.0 will ship this month, while Dynamics GP 10.0 will be released in June, as will Dynamics SL 7.0. Microsoft has several different products, each stemming from a different acquisition. The letters refer to the acquired company's name, such as GP, for Great Plains and NAV for Navision.

After earlier announcing plans to move to a single code base under an initiative known as Project Green, Microsoft now plans to maintain separate products for the foreseeable future, focusing on unifying the look and feel of the products and exchanging information using Web services.

"We'll share as much code as we can," Utzschneider said, but added that customers don't want a single product. "Our first priority is giving our customers software that they want."

The company has been touting its move, with the next version of its customer relationship management (CRM) product, to offer software that can either be purchased and run on a company's server or rented on a subscription basis and hosted on Microsoft's servers. The company doesn't plan to announce more details on Microsoft Dynamics Live CRM at Convergence, but the product is still on track to ship in the second half of the year, Utzschnieder said.

The company has not announced plans to offer hosted ERP software, though partners can offer hosted versions of the Dynamics products.

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