Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced commercial availability of the company's next generation customer relationship management (CRM) cloud services offering yesterday, and plans to launch customer-premises and partner-hosted editions of the package on Thursday.
Never before has Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) made one of its online services available to customers in the cloud i.e., hosted in Microsoft's data centers prior to its availability as customer-premise or third-party hosted offerings.
The move is an example of Ballmer's commitment last year that the company is "all in" on cloud computing.
"This is the first time we've made a release in the cloud before we have done so in the server version, and I think that really reflects the push by Microsoft into the cloud," Ballmer said in a statement.
In fact, Microsoft's Dynamics CRM Online service is based on Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2011 package, which is set for its own launch on Thursday.
While the online version is available now, both the partner-hosted and customer on-premises editions of Dynamics CRM 2011 will not be available worldwide until Feb. 28, the company said.
Microsoft said that some 11,500 customers and 2,000 partners beta tested Dynamics CRM 2011 beginning in September.
The dual launch events help to underline the fierce competition that Microsoft is has mounted with Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) and other cloud services purveyors.
Among other updates in Dynamics CRM 2011, the package includes a new user interface that looks and feels like Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client, a common and popular UI meant to lower training and support costs and make users more at ease with the CRM applications. It will also sport a ribbon taskbar similar to Office 2010 and 2007.
Not surprisingly, the latest version also features improved integration with Exchange, SharePoint, and Office, as well as the other components of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Integration with Microsoft's Azure cloud application platform has also been added.
In addition, Microsoft's pending new bundle of cloud services dubbed Office 365 will include Dynamics CRM Online.
Microsoft's Dynamics CRM Online is available in 40 countries and 41 languages, the company said.