Aiming to attract medium-sized businesses, the software giant plans to ship Microsoft CRM as early as the fourth quarter of 2002 in North America. A beta version of the software is already available. However, in the UK, users are unlikely to see a Microsoft CRM product before the first quarter of 2003.
Andy Smith, European development director at Microsoft, said the reason for the delay was down to Microsoft's team in Ireland who are translating the software to six European languages.
"When it is ready, we'll launch [Microsoft CRM] across Europe," said Smith. Microsoft also plans to develop links with its recently acquired Navision ERP system, he added, although these links will not be available in the first version of Microsoft CRM.
Designed for businesses with 25 to 500 employees, Microsoft said the CRM package builds on the company's growing number of business applications, which offer users a Web-based system for managing accounting, human resources, supply chain and customer relationships.
The suite will be offered as both a hosted service and a product that companies can deploy on their own servers.
Based on Microsoft's .net technology, the software is designed to allow integration with external Web services offered by third parties, such as credit checking, mapping and marketing automation services.
Microsoft first announced plans to offer the CRM package in February.
While enterprise users tend to customise packaged applications, David Thacher, general manager of CRM at Microsoft, said, "[smaller] businesses don't have the IT resources in-house to build [CRM systems] themselves. They need something that's out of the box."
The software uses technology developed to run on Microsoft's .net servers and infrastructure. Users can access the software through Microsoft's e-mail and calendaring software, Outlook, or via a Web browser.
Businesses will need to buy Windows 2000 or Windows NT server software and the SQL Server 2000 database to use the CRM package from Microsoft. The e-mail and messaging functions require Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory.
Prices for the standard edition product will start at $395 (£255) per user, plus $995 (£642) for the server. The professional edition will be priced at up to $1,395 (£900) per user, plus $1,990 (£1,285) for the server.