Microsoft is counting on 100 channel partners to deliver its new customer relationship management (CRM) solution in the UK.
The software giant will rely on a combination of pure resellers, application service providers and niche players to win mid-market share when the product is officially launched at the beginning of next year.
Microsoft believes there is still much to play for in the SME market, citing reports from analysts Gartner and IDC of just 10 per cent market penetration.
Simon Edwards, UK and Ireland general manager at Microsoft Business Solutions, explained that the new product will trade on ready-made interoperability with Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and Office, and the familiarity of its existing user interfaces.
"The CRM market is an enormously fragmented one, and SMEs don't want to buy one-size-fits-all products," he said.
"We have no way of meeting the needs of every SME with a horizontal product, so being able to meet these needs through our partners is key."
Dale Vile, services director at analyst firm Quocirca, suggested that concerned CRM competitors should focus on preserving their channel partners rather than worrying about losing market share.
"Channel partners will see default acceptance from their prospect base for Microsoft's product," he said.
"Microsoft is hoping that its vertical channel partners will eventually help its product mature and deliver a reasonable amount of localisation and product functionality so that, in the future, it matches incumbent offerings feature for feature."
Gerry Carr, marketing manager at systems integrator ACCPAC, added: "Many SMEs need some CRM functionality, but now need it to be hosted.
"This will allow them to integrate with Outlook and Exchange without lock-in to Microsoft. Its product is pretty low-end and can't offer deeper specialist functionality."
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