Microsoft takes on Google with CRM Online

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online left beta this week for general release, amid industry scrutiny as to how well Microsoft's software as a service (SaaS) will fare against that of rival Salesforce.com.

Known until last month as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, Microsoft's new hosted offering in priced less -- especially for those who take advantage of Microsoft promotional offers-- and also offers at least five times as much storage as Salesforce.com.

But Microsoft has also drawn criticism around customers' inability to run Microsoft Office and other on-premise applications together with online CRM without the expense of integration servers.

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Microsoft's new CRM Online service is available in two flavors. Supporting applications in sales, service, and marketing, the Professional Edition provides 5GB of storage, 100 configurable workflows, and 100 custom entries.

The Professional Plus Edition supports the same applications, but provides 20GB of storage, 200 configurable entities, and 100 custom entities, together with offline synchronization.

Professional Plus supports three clients -- offline, Web, and Outlook -- whereas Professional supports only Web and Outlook clients.

Professional Edition is priced at $39 per user, per month, but only through a special promotion good through the end of this year. On January 1, 2009, regular pricing of $44 will start to apply.

Professional Plus, on the other hand, is priced at $59 per user, per month -- but free 30-day trial subscriptions for Plus are currently available to those who are willing to be contacted -- and presumably qualified as sales leads -- by Microsoft sales reps first.

In comparison, Salesforce.com's Professional Edition is priced at $65 per user, per month, and supplies only 1GB of storage.

Microsoft renamed its online CRM offering at the end of March in an effort to expand its market from SMBs to the same enterprise space long dominated by Salesforce.com

But meanwhile, Salesforce.com and Google have engaged in a series of initiatives to thwart Microsoft's online CRM efforts, capped by the announcement earlier this month of tight integration between Salesforce.com's online CRM suite and Google's online productivity applications and e-mail client.

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