December release takes Microsoft CRM straight to version 3.0

Microsoft will start selling its CRM 3.0 package from early next month after recently releasing the public beta of the product.

Microsoft will start selling its CRM 3.0 package from early next month after recently releasing the public beta of the product.

Microsoft CRM 3.0 is more tightly integrated with the company's Office suite, and includes an improved range of customisation tools to enable users to get more out of the platform.

Microsoft is skipping version 2.0 of the product and going straight to version 3.0 after its upgrade plans were delayed, to the annoyance of some customers. Version 2.0 was originally promised in the first quarter of 2004.

The 3.0 beta was released at the end of October and was scheduled to run for 60 days. Microsoft had planned to start manufacturing the software before the end of the year, with a general commercial release in the first quarter of next year.

By bringing forward a commercial release, Microsoft seems confident the continuing beta trial will not throw up any major bugs. The first customers for CRM 3.0 early next month are expected to be sites already using version 1.0 of the software.

CRM 3.0 includes new marketing automation facilities and a new service scheduling module to manage field services staff.

The new version is also more tightly integrated with the company’s SQL Reporting Services, so users don’t have to rely as much on third-party reporting tools.

Better integration with Office includes the easier export of CRM data into Excel files.

Microsoft is introducing a small business edition of CRM 3.0, designed for companies that use Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition. This version will deliver a simplified installation.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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