First Coffee for December 6, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for December 6, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is the sprawling, brilliant mess that is the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, with the most powerful blues slam jam ever recorded by white guys, “Stop Breaking Down.” Hey, it’s not a morning without at least one ridiculously overgeneralized opinion:

Happy birthday, and a reverent tip of the top hat and cane, to Ira Gershwin.

A recent Harris poll found that 20 percent of Americans think “VoIP” is “a European hybrid car.” Not a bad guess, really. Ten percent think it’s “a low-carb vodka.”

Microsoft Corp. is announcing that its new CRM release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, which gets its debut party today, is currently in use in “a cross-section of its worldwide customer base,” including “small businesses, midsize companies and large enterprises,” and represent both “new customers and those that are upgrading from Microsoft CRM 1.2,” according to company officials.

That’s right, there wasn’t any 2.0. Straight ahead to the future, folks. Kind of like the Traveling Wilburys.

“Microsoft Dynamics as a product line is not limiting itself to small and mid-sized businesses,” Brad Wilson, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics told Reuters late last night. “Clearly CRM is an example of where we are going after large business in a very broad manner.”

Industry observer Todd Bishop has reported that Microsoft will offer 3.0 “for a monthly subscription fee today, forging ahead with the company’s new online strategy and trying to fend off a key rival.”

You can get it under a traditional software license (for a standard price), as Bishop says, but Microsoft’s trying to eat, RightNow and NetSuite’s lunch by offering a hosted version as well.

Microsoft is claiming happy customers at successful 3.0 installations at such companies as Volvo, Corillian and Perot Systems, as well as a Dominican Republic law firm, an Australian-based provider of on-site and wide- area paging systems and Whistler, British Columbia, the host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

There’s the slew of integrators anxious to get their offerings up and running as well. Avanade Inc., a Microsoft integrator, has announced the availability of their Enterprise CRM products for health plans, financial services and customer care, using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.

Mike Pazak, vice president of Enterprise Business Solutions at Avanade said the company would use Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 to “market our suite of enterprise-ready CRM applications,” focusing primarily on the health plans, financial services, and call center industries.

He said Avande would combine the Microsoft CRM product with offerings from their alliance partners GaleForce Solutions and Genesys.

Avanade claims a “unique approach” to its enterprise-ready CRM offerings, citing as an example their new health plan product and the release of the financial services and customer care tools on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, “designed to capitalize on the enhanced product capabilities, including marketing automation, reporting, and analytics.”

Other companies are seeking to associate themselves with today’s launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. Ascentium Corporation has announced that Tourism Whistler, the official sales and marketing organization for Whistler, British Columbia, has been chosen as a showcase customer for today’s launch, according to the wonderfully-named Diane Mombourquette, vice president of Finance and Operations at Tourism Whistler.

Ascentium’s CRM upgrade solution for Tourism Whistler, according to Ascentium officials, makes them “one of the first Microsoft CRM 3.0 customers worldwide featured at the introduction of the new customer relationship management suite.”

c360 Solutions, Inc. is also announcing that its software product line, Productivity Packs for Microsoft CRM 3.0, is generally available. They’ll begin upgrading and delivering these through their network of over 450 authorized c360 partners around the world.

Of course Microsoft has to keep such industry partners and resellers such as c360 Ascentium and Avanade happy, a problem and the other hosted vendors don’t have. As Bishop explains, Microsoft isn’t offering 3.0 directly to business customers, which other hosted vendors are free to do and which makes the most sense, but are offering it “through its existing network of industry partners and resellers. Those partners, not Microsoft, will host the programs and offer them to end customers.”

This awkward, have-it-both-ways approach was predictably pilloried by the hosted, or “on-demand” vendors. “I think it really shows that Microsoft doesn’t get what on-demand is all about,” Phill Robinson, senior vice president of global marketing for told Bishop. “There’s not a lot of advantage to customers for (Microsoft’s) partners to do the hosting.”

Rob Bois, an analyst at AMR Research, told Reuters the new Microsoft CRM product “challenges SAP and Oracle and directly threatens upstart Inc., which has a strong presence among small and medium-sized companies,” in Reuters’ words. Bois said it’s where they’re starting as they try to move upstream to the larger enterprises.

The English language version of Microsoft CRM is available immediately worldwide. New versions will be available in the next few months in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and Iberian), Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

Presumably the Slovene launch is on the drawing board.

Got Firefox 1.5?

CinemaNow Japan Inc., a joint venture between CinemaNow Inc., Tokyo-based Transcosmos and Microsoft, has announced a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. International Television to make movies available for download via its Web site on a pay-per-view and subscription basis.

CinemaNow Japan claims to be “the first online service to offer movies from a major Hollywood studio to the Japanese market via an online subscription.”

Curt Marvis, CEO of CinemaNow and chairman of CinemaNow Japan characterized the move as another step in CinemaNow’s goal of building “a truly global distribution network that reaches localized markets.”

As part of the agreement, Warner Bros. International Television will offer current hits like Ocean’s Twelve, as well as library titles ranging from Rebel Without a Cause to the original Batman movie via CinemaNow Japan’s subscription service, which offers any user with a broadband Internet connection the ability to download movies on an unlimited basis and watch them anytime, anywhere, for as long as they are a subscriber.

“Low-carb vodka?”

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