The Microsoft Business Network is being developed initially for the US to help trading partners conduct transactions. Simon Edwards, UK general manager at Microsoft Business Solutions, said, "[A user] could raise an invoice within Great Plains and pass it to a partner through the business network."
He said Microsoft would be providing services, tools and a standard format for transactions based on XML.
Edwards expected Microsoft Business Networks to be available to UK users of Great Plains and Navision within a year. The version of the business network is likely to be included in Project Green, a future Microsoft ERP platform being developed for its Longhorn operating system.
Along with the business network, Microsoft is revamping its Great Plains business software. Version 8, which is due in July, will be given a new user interface. Microsoft said it will also be closely integrated with Office and the new version of Microsoft Business Portal (version 2.5), as part of Microsoft's attempt to offer standardised ways of working with its products.
This summer will also see a customer relationship management sales module for Windows mobile-based Pocket PCs. The module, called Microsoft CRM Sales for Outlook, will allow users to synchronise mobile data in the field with the Microsoft CRM back-office suite. The release of version 2.0 of Microsoft CRM has already been delayed a year to summer 2005.
Microsoft said it will introduce Navision 4.0, its mid-market ERP product in October. Greater manufacturing functionality and a toolkit for upgrading are among the enhancements promised in the new release. Microsoft said these would make it easier for developers to introduce customised versions of the software for niche industries.
Project Green is Microsoft's strategy to provide a single ERP platform for small and medium-sized businesses. The idea is to tie together Great Plains, Navision and its Axapta products into a common transactional framework built using the Microsoft .net architecture for web services.