It's time to take a break from the endless stream of Windows 8 posts here and play some catch-up. And there's no topic like Dynamics CRM Online to break the ice.
We've known since earlier this year that Microsoft is going to be rolling out a new version of its CRM Online service before the end of calendar 2011, and that this release will be integrated with Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-hosted service bundle. An new on-premises version of Dynamics CRM, based on the same code base, will follow in 2012.
What I didn't realize until reading CRM Buyer earlier this month was that Microsoft is going to be adding an activity feeds feature -- that sounds a lot like Salesforce's Chatter -- to the next Dynamics CRM release.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft wants no parts of comparing itself to Chatter. Brad Wilson, Microsoft's General Manager of Dynamics CRM, preferred to liken the coming feature to Facebook. His description of the activity feeds feature, from the CRM Buyer story:
"It will be a Facebook-style interface that allows people to communicate across the CRM system," he explained. "A user can follow teams, records or accounts. This will be the first wave of social capabilities we plan to introduce over the next 14 months."
(There's also going to be a new Dynamics CRM social-feed client for Windows Phone, as well. This isn't a full CRM client for the phone; it's going to provide read-only access to the Dynamics CRM activity feed. There's a demo of the coming Windows Phone client in this Worldwide Partner Conference video, starting at around 1:35.)
When I asked Microsoft about patterning CRM Online after Salesforce's Chatter (after hearing a number of Microsoft execs privately and publicly pooh-pooh Chatter), I received the following statement from a company spokesperson:
"We have a strategic long-term commitment to providing customers with Social CRM capabilities that enable them to manage all their relevant relationships and interactions in a way that support their business goals and also improves employee productivity. We believe our vision and strategy to deliver this functionality to be unique in the industry. The Q4 release of Microsoft Dynamics Online is the first step towards this comprehensive vision, and we believe will offer significant value to organizations who want to take advantage of Social CRM capabilities in a way that better connects them with customers, partners and their broader ecosystem of stakeholders while also improving productivity of their workforce."
Microsoft officials also are going to allow Dynamics CRM users to turn on/off the new feeds capability, officials stressed.
A possibly related note: Microsoft's Office Labs team built a Chatter/Yammer-like "microblogging" offering known as OfficeTalk that is used inside the company. Earlier this year, OfficeTalk moved from a Microsoft-funded incubation project, to one that was being considered for commercialization by various Microsoft product teams. I asked officials earlier this year if OfficeTalk could potentially find its way into Dynamics CRM and was told the company had no comment.