Microsoft explains Great Plains strategy

Jeff Raikes, a group vice president at Microsoft Corp., explained Microsoft's acquisition of CRM (customer relationship management) vendor Great Plains Software Inc. to financial analysts here on Thursday.

Although some analysts might point to increased revenue and expanding into European markets as reasons for the purchase, Raikes said those were only byproducts of the purchase. Instead, the purchase was a means to get into the small and midsize business market for CRM software.

"By the end of this decade, every business is going to be on the Internet," Raikes said.

Likewise, all business will need the ability to conduct business over the Web, including customer-related functions such as automated billing. This will be particularly difficult for small and midsize companies, Raikes continued.

"We're trying to position Microsoft to be a leader in that value," Raikes said.

Microsoft's president of Great Plains, Doug Burgum, came onstage to announce Small Business Manager, a version of Great Plains targeted at companies with 25 and fewer employees.

Burgum also said that the company is working on an enterprise version with features around distribution and supply-chain management.

Both versions, Burgum said, aim to more tightly integrate front and back-end office applications, business intelligence, and services.

"[We're building] a solution, not a bunch of pieces of software that need to be integrated," Burgum said.

He added that in the next several months, the company will release a .NET version of bCentral with new services, and a release of Great Plains that runs on XP will be available when XP ships on Oct. 25.

Burgum added that as the company continues to develop the Great Plains products, it will build upon the .NET platform and team up with ISVs for vertical markets.

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