You can tell a lot about a company's direction by the order in which they release their products. Microsoft made it perfectly clear last year that their flagship Dynamics CRM is headed for the clouds by ensuring that their next major roll-out would be for on-demand (cloud) users only.
The Dynamics CRM 2013 roll-out, which is for on-premise users, is merely what cloud users have been using for the last few months.
What does that say about Microsoft's direction? Vertical, metaphorically.
Dynamics CRM 2013 is a major update, previously codenamed Orion, but deriving much of its overhaul from the Polaris update which took place earlier in the year. A prior roll-out had seen Dynamics (finally) go multi-browser, with compatibility for Firefox, Chrome and Safari as well as the much-bemoaned Internet Explorer.
Polaris, launched in January, brought Dynamics to the iPad, as well as integration with Skype and Bing Maps. However, the biggest change was the customer feedback-led interface, which finally rid itself of pop-ups and introduced a more process-driven interface.
At the heart of this was the integration of an acquisition - that of Marketing Pilot. Microsoft are traditionally slow to integrate, but this time they've realised that the quicker, the better - and much of the marketing automation functionality that is in this update derives from MarketingPilot - media planning, behavioural analysis, etc.
CRM 2013 brings apps for Windows & iPad, but the future plans include even more mobile with Android & iPhone apps, and more integration of Marketing Pilot features.
So what does this mean for the CRM industry? Well, not much, really. It means that Microsoft have caught up with some of the more agile providers, and are placing themselves increasingly as a cloud CRM option of choice. It also means that they're listening to customer feedback, and that's another welcome shift.
This infographic from Microsoft CRM partner Preact illustrates the changes that have gone - and are to come.
Gareth is Director of Digital Marketing at Clever Little Design. He's interested in B2B marketing, search, technology and customer service - and essentially how the customer should be placed at the centre of all marketing (and business) strategy.