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Microsoft to add CRM accelerators, online marketplace

Microsoft is turning to its substantial partner channel to build out its CRM capabilities, developing a site to help customers connect with partners and an accelerator program.

Microsoft today turned to its partner community to bolster the functionality of its CRM products with an online directory of partner tools and applications.

Revealed at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference being held this week in Houston,

Customers can access Pinpoint online or directly through CRM Online or Dynamics CRM via the new resource center function, which provides tips and best practices for getting the most out of their CRM implementation. Microsoft develops its own add-ons, which will be offered elsewhere.

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Microsoft also said today that it will release solution accelerators between its major CRM point releases. The first eight accelerators were announced today and will be released in the third quarter. They include an accelerator for sales methodology integration, which provides pre-built integration with methodologies like

The accelerators will be free and available via download from Microsoft or its partners.

Microsoft is also hoping to expand its CRM Online customer base through a ready-made group of prospects -- its giant partner channel. Yesterday, Microsoft said it would offer the Professional Plus version to partners with offline synchronization for $19 per user per month, a significant discount from the standard $59 per user per month list price.

"We want our broad partner base to embrace CRM online as a way to handle their customer management needs," Wilson said.

Microsoft says it plans to offer a free Software as a Service (SaaS) readiness tool to help partners and independent software vendors evaluate their readiness to offer on-demand products and services.

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