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Office door is now open to users

New integration will let users export data from their CRM systems to Microsoft Outlook, Word or Excel.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hosted CRM provider has released Office Edition, which integrates with Microsoft Office 2000 and 2003.

Building off the past release of customizable APIs available through's application server, Sforce 2.0, the newest offering takes these XML Web service capabilities and automatically ties together Office applications, including Outlook, Word and Excel, with's CRM service.

"Microsoft got it right. Office 2003 is really a development tool, and we've taken that foundation and integrated it into," said Marc Benioff,'s CEO. discussed a partnership with Microsoft at its user conference in November, and now the fruits of that partnership are available.

The Office Edition is available for free to's 8,400 customers and 120,000 subscribers, as long as they use Office 2000 or 2003. Additionally, those running Microsoft Office 2003 will be able to use document protection tools and get the development capabilities of Visual Studio .NET 2003.

Office Edition affords users a host of new capabilities. For instance, they can now integrate the graphics and design of Word with customer data stored in to do merge mailings. Also, utilizing Excel, users can import data for reports that can be updated in real-time according to the user's records.

"Up until now, we have had no support for Outlook 2003. Now report mailings that used to take hours can be done in minutes," said Ron Hess, CRM program manager for Neoforma Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of health care supply chain management tools.

Though users are likely to welcome the capabilities of Office Edition, the enhancements are not exactly groundbreaking, according to one analyst.

"Integration with Microsoft Office is a fairly common functionality module, so Office Edition is hardly revolutionary. But's new offering does overcome people's concern that ASPs can't integrate," said Wendy Close, CRM research director at Gartner Inc. "And it certainly doesn't hurt that the new functionality is included in the subscription price."

" continues to add value to their product, and that is what keeps you coming back for more," Hess said.

Integration with Outlook is extremely important for smaller companies using CRM software. Microsoft itself has upped the ante in this regard by touting tight integration between its own CRM software and the popular e-mail client.

Notes: At a luncheon to launch Office Edition, CEO Marc Benioff mentioned the upcoming release of a book he co-authored, Compassionate Capitalism: How Corporations Can Make Doing Good an Integral Part of Doing Well. It is largely based on Benioff's experiences integrating philanthropy into's business model.


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