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Microsoft takes wraps off its 'Madeira' SMB business-management service

Microsoft's new 'Madeira' business-management service for small/mid-sized users, along with Windows, iOS and Android Madeira apps, is now available in public preview.

As rumored last week, Microsoft took the wraps off its "Project Madeira" small-business-focused ERP client apps this week.

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But Madeira isn't exactly what many of us following Microsoft's ERP products thought it was.

Since last year, many Dynamics ERP watchers were using the "Madeira" codename synonymously with the next release of Dynamics NAV. Dynamics NAV is one of Microsoft's four different ERP product families, and the one that's focused on small/mid-sized business users.

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But the Madiera apps for Windows, iOS and Android that Microsoft made available in preview form over the past few days aren't the client apps for the next release of Dynamics NAV, company officials said. When I asked a spokesperson if Madeira was the next version of Dynamics NAV, I was told no.

"Project Madeira is a new multi-tenant, public cloud business management service (SaaS). It is a separate release from Microsoft Dynamics NAV, which is on track to ship v.next in the second half of CY 2016. Project Madeira is a new offering built on the Microsoft Dynamics NAV platform and several other Microsoft technologies. We have a related but separate development stream for Microsoft Dynamics NAV v.next," the spokesperson said.

As Microsoft described in a blog post announcing the public preview of Madeira, Madeira is a public cloud service running on Azure, which users can access via the Web or using the aforementioned Windows, iOS or Android Madeira apps.

The preview is available in the U.S. only, and the service itself will be generally available during the second half of calendar 2016, starting in the U.S., with other countries to follow.

Madeira is aimed at companies with between 10 and 100 employees. It's designed for companies that "need more than the simple financial and accounting tools they started with, but aren't yet ready to make a big investment in a customized enterprise resource planning (ERP) system."

Madeira allows users to stay inside Outlook while handling financials, sales, purchasing, CRM and other related tasks. Microsoft is encouraging third-party software vendors to build both horizontal and vertical extensions for Madeira. There's already a Power BI content pack for Madeira.

Madeira does have its roots in Dynamics NAV, as Dynamics NAV Most Valuable Professional Erik Hougaard described in his blog post about the new offering.

"NAV has always be able to detach business logic from technology and this has enabled Microsoft to move the NAV application into the cloud, the result Madeira," he explained. "This is not quite NAV, but a version of NAV tailored to a 'cloud first, mobile first' world."

Another Microsoft MVP, Eric Ernst, described Madeira as "using NAV's multi-tenant architecture on a NAV 2016 base."

Users will be able to purchase and set up Madeira without partners, but the offering also will be sold via Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider channel, MSDynamicsWorld.com notes.

Update: Microsoft officials said Madeira will be sold only via partners, not direct.

Last year, as part of one of Microsoft's corporate reorgs, management moved the Dynamics CRM and ERP engineering organization under the company's Cloud & Enterprise group, which likely explains the increasing number of links between ERP and Microsoft cloud services like Azure, machine learning, Office 365 and Power BI.