MS launches CRM, buys PlaceWare

Microsoft Corp. released to manufacturing Tuesday the Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) software that’s had the industry buzzing since its announcement a year ago.

Originally scheduled to ship by the end of 2002, the software’s street date slipped as Microsoft continued working on the front-to-back integration it has promised.

Microsoft CRM is intended as a low-cost, entry-level product for smaller businesses seeking a CRM package that will easily connect to ubiquitous Microsoft products such as Word and Outlook

The software should be shipping in North America in about a week from several hundred resellers, according to Microsoft. More than 200 customer orders are already waiting, a spokesperson said.

Microsoft CRM is only available for purchase now in the U.S. and Canada, but localized versions for Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Latin America are scheduled for release in the second half of 2003, Microsoft said.

According to Microsoft Canada Co., pricing for Microsoft CRM ranges from $595 per user, plus $1,495 for the service or sales servers for the Standard Edition, to $1,945 per user, plus $2,990 for the service and sales servers for the Professional Suite Edition.

In other Microsoft news, the company on Tuesday agreed to acquire PlaceWare Inc., a privately held company that provides Web conferencing services for businesses.

Microsoft will use the acquisition to start a new business unit that will develop products and technologies that let workers collaborate in real time over the Internet, the company said in a statement. The unit will be part of Microsoft’s Information Worker group, which makes the Office applications suite.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2003. Financial terms and other details were not disclosed.

Based in Mountain View, Calif., PlaceWare offers services that let businesses conduct real-time, interactive presentations and meetings over the Internet. Its customers include American Express Co., Johnson & Johnson and Cisco Systems Inc., according to information on its Web site.

Microsoft will combine PlaceWare’s assets with some of its own to develop new online conferencing technologies. It will share some of them with industry partners, allowing them to build custom business offerings that use real-time collaboration capabilities, Microsoft said. The goal is to boost the productivity of what Microsoft calls “information workers.”

Microsoft Canada is on the Web at

– With files from James Niccolai, IDG News Service