After four months in beta, Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM 2011 has finally been released worldwide.  The new online CRM is now available in 40 countries and 41 languages, while the on-premise edition is due to be released on February 28.

According to Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, 11,500 companies and individuals, as well as 2000 Microsoft (news, site) partners, took part in the beta testing. As part of the launch, it is offering those who take it up between now and June 30 a special price of US$ 33 per user/month as opposed to the full price of US$ 44 per user/month.

Compare that to the US $65 and US$ 125 per user/month for Salesforce.com's Professional and Enterprise editions, and US$ 75 per user/month for Oracle’s (news, site) CRM On-Demand, and you have the makings of an interesting year in the CRM space as Microsoft tries to counter Salesforce’s dominance of the market.

Reduced pricing is not the only incentive that Microsoft is offering however. In a move that will see the three companies jostling for customer sign-ups, Microsoft has underlined its 'Cloud CRM For Less' campaign that will see it offering enterprises US$ 200 for every user that jumps from Salesforce or Oracle to Microsoft’s online CRM.

While Microsoft officially explains the delay in releasing the on-premise edition by saying it wants to do final verification that will work outside the company's data centers -- this is the first time there’s been an online release before an on-premise release -- in reality, it says more about Microsoft’s shifting focus towards cloud computing.

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Dynamics CRM 2011 Online

Dynamics CRM 2011

Last July, the private beta of Dynamics CRM 2011 was announced and introduced in public beta in September. At the time, we suggested that its release was aimed at creating an alternative to Salesforce that would be attractive to companies already working with Microsoft.

This was particularly apparent with the added functionality that it offered. Microsoft CRM 2011, known as CRM 5, provides for better integration with other Microsoft applications like Outlook and Office while also offering new collaboration and visualization features.

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Dynamics CRM 2011: Familiar environments 

Familiar Experiences

Microsoft says it has built the new version to ensure that users would be working in familiar environments. Improvements here include:

  • Easy use of native Outlook functions including previews and conditional formatting through tighter Outlook integration
  • Contextual CRM Ribbon for both Outlook and browsers enabling easier Office navigation
  • Role-based forms containing data relevant to those roles
  • Customized views with records and personal dashboards to monitor performance

Microsoft also says this version will have better connection capabilities for people working inside, and connection with those working outside the enterprise. Features include:

Intelligent Experiences

The new version of Dynamics will give better enterprise information, Microsoft says, by:

  • Easy creation of inline charts with business intelligence taken from across the enterprise
  • Easy creation of real-time dashboards based on up-to-date information to monitor business performance
  • Easy goal definition to measure enterprise and individual progress

Connections

Microsoft also says this version will have better connection capabilities for people working inside and connection with those working outside the enterprise. Features include:

  • Organizations using SharePoint can embed document repositories directly in Dynamics CRM.
  • Easy development and deployment of custom code for Microsoft CRM (on-premise edition).

While Microsoft has offered initiatives to invest in CRM Online, it is being launched into a market that is already crammed with effective and economical CRM offerings.

Whether companies go for it or not, particularly those companies that have already signed up with another provider, remains to be seen. If a company makes the switch and it doesn’t work the way it wants or needs it to work, US$ 200 per license is not going to cover the costs of the problems this could create.