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Microsoft boosts Dynamics CRM with marketing, social media analysis

The additional functionality will help Microsoft compete with Salesforce.com and Oracle

Microsoft is hoping to shove aside rivals such as Salesforce.com and Oracle in the CRM (customer relationship management) software market by linking its own Dynamics CRM application with new capabilities for marketing automation and social media analysis.

Microsoft's recently acquired MarketingPilot marketing automation software has been given a "simplified user experience" as well as a connector to Dynamics CRM, the company announced Tuesday during the Convergence conference in New Orleans. Marketing automation applications, particularly ones that allow customers to run campaigns across multiple channels, are becoming increasingly important to CRM vendors.

The updated MarketingPilot software will be available this month in the U.S. and other countries later this year.

Microsoft's move to tie MarketingPilot with Dynamics CRM is not much of a surprise. It ties into a growing desire by CRM vendors to augment core sales automation functionality with a broader array of related capabilities. Oracle and Salesforce.com both boosted their marketing software prowess with the respective acquisitions of Eloqua and Buddy Media.

Another key area for CRM vendors lies in social media sentiment analysis. To that end, on Tuesday Microsoft announced the acquisition of Netbreeze. The Swiss company's capabilities will be embedded into Dynamics CRM.

The technology will go up against Salesforce.com's Radian6 software as well as Oracle's Collective Intellect and Involver applications, all of which were also the result of acquisitions.

While many such "listening platforms" have been in the market for some time, customers have used them in stand-alone form.

They generally target the same goals, meaning competitive differentiation comes down to the amount of social data an application can ingest and analyze, and the ultimate quality of that analysis.

Netbreeze stands out from the pack since its natural language processing technology can parse nearly 30 languages natively, according to David Pennington, director of Dynamics CRM product marketing. Microsoft is also gaining the intellectual firepower of Netbreeze's staff, which started out in data science and later moved into social monitoring and listening, he said.

The Netbreeze acquisition "is part of a broader strategy by Microsoft to disrupt the social analytics market," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret. "Clearly, Microsoft has Salesforce.com in its sights."

"Netbreeze was a technology acquisition, to hire the smart guys," he added. "Microsoft wants to create a simpler and easier-to-use social analytics product."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com


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