Channel Marker

October 24, 2007  7:05 AM

New MBS support plan could allay ‘Project Green’ worries

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft hopes to ease concerns about its ERP migration plans by extending minimum support on all four product lines for another five years.

“The longer support pledge should put any worries about Microsoft’s ERP roadmap to rest, says Barb Edson, senior director of Microsoft Dynamics marketing.

Net, net, net, this means that the four ERP lines, which Microsoft had already promised to support till 2013, will be supported for an additional five years. “By saying we’re committed to all four products, across all four lines, the message is ‘pick whichever is the best fit and we’ll keep investing in it,” Edson said.

Five years ago, Microsoft’s stated its “Project Green” plan to converge its four ERP code bases into one. But continuing confusion around the strategy caused many customers to hold off on upgrading the products they already had. And partners didn’t like that one darn bit.

It didn’t help when rumors cropped up a that Axapta (aka Microsoft Dynamics AX) was going to be the de facto converged code base. “That killed Great Plains sales,” said on long time Great Plains (Dynamics GP) partner.

So, Microsoft is using its Convergence conference in Copenhagen to reassure all constituencies that Solomon, Great Plains, Axapta and Navision will continue to be updated and supported into the foreseeable future.

There have been glitches for the Microsoft Business Division’s biz apps push. For one thing, the company’s rebranding of the products isn’t hugely popular. (Ask any Great Plains or Axapta or Navision or Solomon partner if they prefer Dynamics GP or AX or NAV or SL, and you’ll see what I mean). And while Mcirosft pledges “love” to all four ERP lines, it offloaded Solomon development to a third party. That hasn’t kept Solomon, make that Dynamics SL partners, very warm and fuzzy.

And there is some concern among MBS partners about how high a priority ERP and CRM in Microsoft’s own world view as the company seems obsessed with Google and its search domination, for example.

Meanwhile, SAP keeps investing in Business One for the mid market, and Intuit, which has repeatedly staved off Microsoft in so-ho accounting is coming up market with Quickbooks Enterprise. It even unveiled its own SMB partner program last week and has lured several Microsoft ERP partners to participate. One said Intuits pricing gives the VAR entry into accounts that cannot afford the typically $10,000 to $15,000 entry price for a Microsoft solution.

But back to Convergence. At the show Microsoft will pledge to give partners and customers advanced notice of roadmap changes and tweaks 12 to 18 months in advance.

And it will extend its solution financing option-which lets partners finance hardware, software and services at low rates-into European markets.

Total Solution Financing, already available in the U.S., lets partner parse out customer payments into affordable monthy chunks at low interest rates. Leasing terms range fom 12 to 60 months. Monthly payments can be as low as 50 euros a month.

Last month, Microsoft brought business apps support into the overall fold.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at

October 23, 2007  7:26 AM

Microsoft cuts ‘Titan’ CRM prices to hosting partners

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

In its quest to entrench  Microsoft CRM as a popular hosted alternative to, Microsoft today cut the subscription fees for hosting partners by 40 percent,

These partners will now pay $15 per customer per month vs.$25 per user per month. Partners must also run Windows Server 2000 or later and SQL Server 2003 or later.

That price allows partners to build in their own margin and still be able to offer the service at a competitive price, said  Bryan Nielson director worldwide product marketing for dynamics CRM., the pioneer in CRM-as-a-service retails starting at $600 per year for five users, but most editions cost considerably more–listing for at least $65 per user per month.

The news was delivered at the company’s Convergence show in Copenhagen by Microsoft Business Division president Jeff Raikes. 

The company says its  new “Titan” hosted CRM version remains on track for end-of-year availability and the first release of the  service will ship with support for English, Dutch, german, French and Spanish right out of the chute with other languages available over the next few months. They will be distributed in free downloadable “language packs” every few weeks. Support for the major currencies will be available immediately, with others to follow in the same model.

Titan, which will likely be known as Microsoft CRM 4.0, will feature one code set available in on-premises and hosted versions. The big news with this release is that, for the first time, Microsoft itself will host it for customers who want to go that route.

Partners who bring customers into the Titan fold, with Microsoft playing the host, will receive 10 percent of revenue from that account every year the customer remains on the service and the partner is in good standing, Nielson said.

The company also added several hosting partners to its roster:  Mondo A/S out of Denmark, Jaythom Pty Ltd., of Australia,  EveryWare AG of Switzerland and Increase Ltd. of the UK.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at

October 22, 2007  8:48 AM

Intuit officially launches channel program for mid-market

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Intuit says its newly launched solution provider program for mid-market companies will make QuickBooks for Enterprise a viable alternative to Sage Software and Microsoft ERP products.

The company, long a leader in accounting software for consumers and very small businesses, says there is a huge audience of larger companies–those with 20 to 500 employees–that is not addressed by those pricier wares.

The just-shipping  QuickBooks Enterprise version 8.0 weighs in at $3,000 for five concurrent seats and ranges up to $9,000 for 20 seats. The latter price is a hike from $7,500 for the previous version.

To better penetrate this market Intuit recruited new VARs, many of whom are also in the Sage and Microsoft camps, and signed up 75 solution providers. These partners consist of many who are new to Intuit as well as some current Intuit Pro Advisor partners to help design this channel program, says Jim Gregg, channel director of Intuit’s Mid-Market Group.

The company did its homework where the rubber hits the road:  Partner compensation. Base margin on a software sale is 25 percent, but partners can garner another 20 percent based on other factors. Gregg said, overall, if the partner does well in both sales and service components, he or she can get to 60 percent margin.

If a sale initiated by a partner ends up going direct, the partner will still get 15 points of margin. Partners can get up to an additional 6 percent based on customer satisfaction as measured by the company’s quarterly Net Promoter” research.

The company will also assess points of margin-2 percent-for partners who actively participate in its online “Live Community” support forum. Another 5 percent of margin can be had for bringing in a customer from a competitive offering or converting a current, but unsupported, Intuit customer.

Still another 20 percent is to be had each month by referring customers to QuickBooks Merchant Services, the QuickBase database, and vInventory on-Demand Inventory Management. That bonus will be paid as long as the partner remains a member in good standing of the Intuit program.

Intuit, Mountain View, Calif., is looking for partners to join some of its existing Pro Advisor network members, for this program. The goal is to sign up 250 members in the U.S. this year. The overall goal is 750 partners, Gregg said.

Qualifying partners must pay an initiation fee of $1,000; annual membership is $1,500.

Lori Nicks, president of Accounting Technology Systems of Tucson, is aboard.

A long-time Solomon (now Microsoft Dynamics SL) partner, Nicks says Intuit’s price point will get her into smaller accounts more easily.  “With SL, you’re looking at $10,000 to $15,000 to get in,” which is too rich for many small accounts, Nicks says.

Nicks was part of Intuit’s pilot program and says she’s getting quite a few referrals from the vendor and ha picked up several consulting clients who initially bought through Intuit. She says her company will continue to offer Solomon as well as QuickBooks Enterprise.

By way of background, Intuit is one of the few software companies that has managed to beat back incursions by Microsoft into its key turf  multiple times. Microsoft’s latest foray, Small Business Accounting, has apparently also failed to convince many users to leave Quicken.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at

October 16, 2007  4:20 PM

Microsoft pushes next Navision release out a year

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

The next version of Microsoft Navision ERP (aka Dynamics NAV) has been delayed a full year, the company confirmed today.

What was to have been NAV 5.1, due late this year, has morphed into NAV 6, with a slated release date of the fourth quarter 2008. That’s calendar year quarter,

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the changes, first reported in a German trade publication IS Report  and in this blog last week.

Details were sparse but the spokeswoman said there will be an interim Service Pack for Nav 5.1, early next year.

Here’s part of the statement from Mogens Elsberg, Dynamics NAV general manager:

“The development effort behind the delivery of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 6.0 is significant. While bringing valuable usability and productivity gains to customer, the development work requires real architectural change. Given the strong Microsoft Dynamics NAV ISV ecosystem, we have engaged ISVs early in the development of the product. Together we have concluded that we can bring important improvement to the product by extending the release date.

By continuing our work we can improve the performance, overall quality an perhaps most importantly, maintain the ‘simplicity’ of Microsoft Dynamics NAV.”


What remains to be seen is whether this decision has anything to do with a Microsoft-hosted ERP. While the company has forged ahead on  Microsoft-hosted CRM,  as of July executives said there was  no decision–yet–on whether Microsoft would host ERP (or accounting) software for customers. Partners already host Microsoft CRM and ERP for some accounts.

A year or so earlier, company CEO Steve Ballmer was giving partners the heads up that Microsoft would host virtually everything in its stable, if the customer demands it.

Also floating around MBS land in the past year were rumors that Axapta (Microsoft Dynamics AX) would be the basis of the converged  ERP code the company had promised. Microsoft has never acknowledged this to be the case and the fact that the rumor has stayed “out there” has hurt Great Plains (Dynamics GP) sales, several partners said.

This quandary shows the pitfalls of buying –and then having to maintain and upgrade–several code bases. Microsoft jumpstarted its business applications push in 2001 when it bought Great Plains Software, which had already bought Solomon. The following year, Microsoft snapped up Navision, of Denmark, which already fielded its eponymous ERP as well as Axapta. The latter two brands are still stronger in Europe than in the U.S. but Axapta sports the most  modern code base of the four products and thus would provide the most up-to-date underpinnings of a converged ERP product.

Stay tuned on this folks. I have a feeling there may be some news on this front soon.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at

October 12, 2007  8:28 AM

Oracle pulls the trigger on BEA deal

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Just when you thought Oracle might be settling down, the company makes a $6.6 billion bid for BEA Systems, the app server power.

Such a move has been rumored on and off for some time, but apparently it finally got the stamp of approval up on the eleventh floor in Redwood Shores.

Bloomberg others report that Oracle has contacted BEA’s board with a $17-a share offering—a 25-percent premium over BEA’s closing price of $13-and-change yesterday.

Financier Carl Icahn has upped his stake in BEA over the past few months and has been agitating for action.

Oracle and BEA share a Java-centric focus, but in the past few years Oracle has been building its own app-server business. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used to boast of the progress his middleware was making at the expense of BEA share.

Several solution providers, some of whom support both Oracle and BEA wares have long speculated about whether or not the pairing would make sense.

This gives Oracle a very strong Java middleware share, said the CEO of one large system integrator who works with both companies and did not want to be named.

”BEA has been under pressure from Oracle, open-source, IBM for awhile and doesn’t have a diverse enough software portfolio to beat the other guys on every deal,” he said. Oracle has the complete solution—database, application server, tools but BEA has retained a better market presence in application servers, he noted.

He said his company tends to sell BEA and Oracle into different accounts. “It’s hard to sell a non Oracle app server into an Oracle account,” he noted.

Should the purchase go through, BEA will join PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel Systems, and a handful of other companies in Oracle’s portfolio. It also follows, by just a few days,  SAP’s announced plan to buy Business Objects, a business intelligence power. SAP and Oracle are the two largest providers of business applications.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area freelance journalist, can be reached at

October 11, 2007  6:33 AM

Ballmer defends Vista’s honor to disgruntled Windows mom

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

I loved this story.

It recounts Steve Ballmer’s encounter with an irate Gartner analyst who is also a mom who installed Vista for her daughter. It seems she had a not-so-wonderful user experience.

Here’s what’s great about the contretemps.

First, say what you will, Ballmer puts himself on the firing line. Repeatedly and usually with good humor. He actually responds to questions. This is a great thing and something many of his peers don’t do. Here are some examples of  off-the-cuff Ballmerisms.

Second, it illustrates that Microsoft, big as it is, cannot chase every opportunity. While executives have maintained that the company’s division structure will let it excel (no pun intended) in client and server operating systems, applications, game hardware and software, cloud computing and what not, the Vista experience shows what happens when it takes its eye off the ball. (And also what happens–to reverse an oft-used Microsoft mantra–when it over promises and under delivers.)

It’s jack-of-all-trades strategy has hit it where it hurts: Microsoft’s reputation for client operating systems.

It also shows that despite all the PR and marketing glitz in the world, solution partners are canaries in the coal mine for such launches. They have long maintained that Vista wasn’t ready for prime time. Many  have good businesses continuing to sell Windows XP-based systems which are scarce at retail.

 Speaking as a resigned-but-not-happy Vista user, Microsoft needs to focus on what it really needs to do and filter out the noise. That means an operating system that works without forced reboots, that boots up and shuts down in less time than it takes to get a cup of coffee, and a browser that doesn’t hang.

Not that anyone asked.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

October 10, 2007  12:32 AM

Some training needed when it comes to high-tech training

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

For as long as I’ve been covering the high-tech channel, product training has been a bone of passionate contention between vendors and VARs.

The latter generally want/need skills building for free (considering all the up-front costs associated with taking on a new product before it actually sells), while the former want to see that a reseller is truly serious about selling their technology through some kind of training investment.

Because I am one of those horrid people who see shades of gray where others see black and white, I empathize with both arguments.

Most solution providers will admit they understand that investing in training is part of their business model. What they are asking for is the following:

  • The same access to information that a vendor’s internal support and technical engineers receive
  • Training options (online, self-paced) that don’t take personnel out of critical client engagements
  • Certification processes that are based on their ability to deploy/integrate/support the product in a real-life situation
  • Recognition for their existing investments in comparable products

The reason I got to thinking about all this was an item I saw a few weeks back detailing Hewlett-Packard’s move to contract with Microsoft Learning to offer training to technicians that are part of Onforce, the online services marketplace.

Onforce, which is itself controversial in some channel circles because of the way services professionals can bid on jobs (potentially depressing services margins), represents roughly 10,000 IT services professionals. Many of these folks work for VARs or systems integrators and are using the site to boost utilization rates. Some larger organizations, such as Siemens and CompUSA, use OnForce to fulfill service requests across the United States.

The new relationship will enable OnForce participants to use the marketplace as a resource for training and validation on new Microsoft technologies including Microsoft Vista and the company’s Small Business Specialist designation. HP is sponsoring the program through its education services group.

Now, I don’t mean to mislead you into believing this training is free. But by focusing on making it easier for solution providers to keep up to date AND by keeping it top of mind, both HP and Microsoft have reinforced their brand mindshare with members of the OnForce channel community. It’s a philosophy that other tech vendors would do well to emulate. Not necessarily through OnForce deals, but by stepping back to rethink WHAT skills they really want to see represented in front of customers.

If you’re a solution provider with a great story to tell about skills development, e-mail me at

Heather Clancy, principal with Jabberwocky Communications, is a business journalist and strategic communications consultant who has covered the high-tech channel for 18 years.

October 7, 2007  10:55 PM

Analytics VARs Take Note: SAP to buy Business Objects

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

SAP, the ERP market leader,  is buying Business Objects, another European software power, for about $7 billion.

The move by SAP, Waldorf, Germany, to buy Paris-based Business Objects typifies the increasing value of analytics and business intelligence to mainstream software companies. And it means that solution providers, many of whom have long touted BI talents as a major value-add, have to monitor what’s going on with their vendor partners’ BI strategies.

Business Objects, along with Cognos, was one of the few remaining standalone analytics players at time of  bustling M&A.

In the past few years, Oracle bought Hyperion, after having already bought Siebel Systems, which had already bought-and-built its own BI. Microsoft bought Proclarity.  In fact, the then-independent Siebel, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM have all made big analytics acquisition even as they boosted their homegrown BI talents.

For solution providers who help customers make sense out of the reams of data collected in databases, files systems and desktop applications. it is important to know what the big software players are doing when it comes to BI.

Business Objects will operate as a “stand-alone business as part of the SAP Group, according to a statement issued  Sunday.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

October 4, 2007  8:50 PM

Google takes another step in biz apps biz

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

It took Google a month to incorporate Postini’s security and compliance servers into its business apps. Google  completed its $625 million acquisition of Postini a security-as-a-service pioneer in September.

The higher-end Google Apps Premier Edition gets the Postini goods-configurable spam and virus filters, central management to set policy for content screening etc.

Premier Edition combines word processor, spreadsheet, instant messaging, email, calendar and Web creation tools for $50 per user per year including ten gigabytes of storage. Not bad.

When Google introduced the Premier version early this year, Postini, and Avaya, was one of its inaugural partners.

E-mail and collaboration VARs, many of whom built their businesses selling and supporting Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, and open-source-oriented mail like Open-Xchange and Scalix, are watching Google’s moves carefully.

One mid-western VAR says Google is taking business away with one hand, but providing other business with the other.

RICIS, Tinley Park, Ill., has lost more than a dozen e-mail accounts to Google last year.  But, many of those customers retained his company do to services work anyway.  RICIS also sells the Google appliance, which aims to bring Google search inside company firewalls, and has found rich services opportunities working with the Google APIs to integrate the company’s services into the customers’ Web sites and applications

Gregory Rosenberg, CEO of RICIS, says he makes 54 percent margin on those services vs. 25 percent on the Google appliance. He even says he makes more margin on Google than he can on Microsoft software sales.

So, even though RICIS cannot resell Google apps, Rosenberg feels he’s doing better with Google in the mix than he would without it.

If you’re an e-mail or collaboration specialist, how do you view Google’s entry? Drop a line!

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

October 3, 2007  10:47 PM

Microsoft wants Facebook–er, maybe not

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

 Just what company Microsoft will buy, or buy into, next has become a parlor game among solution providers and civilians alike.Last week,  The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources, that Microsoft was talking to Facebook about buying perhaps a five percent stake in the social networking company  for up to a half a billion dollars.  

The Journal valued Facebook at $10 billion or more. Staggering.

This week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted in  The Times Of London in a way that indicated that social networking sites in general and by extension Facebook in particular were  “faddish.”

You could argue–and many did–that this was a ploy to drive price down. I would like to think Ballmer was just speaking his mind. He acknowledged that the Facebook community–tens of millions of user aggregated in its three years of existence–has value.

But a technology powerhouse? Seriously, does anyone really see Facebook as a legitimate application development platform?

Let me know. I can take it.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: