In the debate over whether to use native clients for mobile development or to use HTML5, Microsoft comes down squarely in the native camp.
The latest update of Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM software offers native clients on Windows Phone 7, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms.
This is important given the international nature of Microsoft’s clientele, said Craig Dewar, director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Applications delivered via a browser require network connections, which are not always available or may be cost prohibitive in markets where unlimited data plans are not common.
Commercial terms for Dynamics CRM also allow people to use up to three devices simultaneously against a single mobile subscription. “Sales people today have phones and tablets. We don’t think they should have to choose,” Dewar said.
Unlike some competitors, Microsoft will use a single integrated client for all of its mobile applications, which facilitates seamless information sharing among apps, Dewar said. And thanks to Microsoft’s xRM development framework, he said, “We’re not just mobilizing the core app but all customers’ extensions and custom work will work on the mobile device with no coding on the device required.”
All of these features help illustrate the difference between enterprise and consumer applications, Dewar said. “There’s a perception you can chuck a couple of developers into a garage and they’ll come up with an iPhone app. But that’s not enterprise class software where you take information that people care about from inside their business and mobilize it in a way that’s comprehensive.”
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile will be available at a starting price of $30 per user, per month and, as Dewar said, supports the use of up to three devices per user.
Still, despite Microsoft’s current commitment to native clients, Dewar said it would likely revisit that approach as HTML 5 matures and device adaptors become available.
In fact, Dewar predicted, Windows 8 “will be a watershed moment in the market for HTML5 development” when it’s released. Windows 8 will be based on HTML5, a fact that has caused some consternation among Microsoft developers who worry about the software giant’s continuing support for its Silverlight development tool.
In addition to mobile, Dynamics CRM users will also gain a new set of business intelligence capabilities with a new Power View feature that will be included in a SQL Server release scheduled for next month, Dewar said. SQL Server’s reporting and analytics capabilities complement Dynamics CRM, Dewar said.
Power View will offer users the ability to build visualizations and see how they change over time, similar to a compelling presentation given by statistician Hans Rosling at a recent TED conference. Although Rosling’s presentation focused on global economic trends, Dewar said the same trend-spotting capability will be valuable for Dynamics CRM users looking at sales forecasts, pipeline management and other areas.
“It’s really going to light up how people can delve into data and see trends,” Dewar said. “You can see outliers pop up and disappear. It really pops when you see it that way versus just viewing static data.”
Microsoft has also invested in several key certifications for the online service of Dynamics, Dewar said. So, for example, health care providers using online Dynamics CRM can provide HIPAA-certified products and services from within Dynamics.
With this release Microsoft also built upon some of the social features included in its last service update of Dynamics CRM in November. A status updates feature was tweaked with improved filtering capabilities and the ability to like and unlike statuses, for example.
Another significant feature of this service update is the addition of multiple Web browser options, including Chrome, Firefox and Safari in addition to Internet Explorer.