Microsoft has a set a November launch date for the arrival of its small business portal bCentral.

Headed up by ex-channel boss Paul Tollet, the portal will initially offer the same basic services as its rivals, including hosting, maintenance and online file storage.

“The real action will start in March,” said small business director Tollet.

Microsoft believes it can brush aside longer established rivals such as Virginbiz.net by offering CRM (customer relationship management) services.

Normally associated with higher end enterprise computing, the provision of CRM services should help small businesses deploy software in conjunction with the Internet to allow them to manage customer relationships in a more efficient fashion.

Employees taking multiple orders using mobile devices, for example, should be able to share sales leads and customer contacts through an integrated system, involving telesales, accounts and sales management.

Tollet added that bCentral would offer all the traditional features associated with all-singing all-dancing portals, including rolling news, online forums, tips and tricks and Q&As.