Microsoft's Convergence conference opened Tuesday in New Orleans with a message and a string of new offerings meant to ease the suffering of its recession-battered ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) customers.
"Our mission is to give you a set of tools that will help you become a dynamic business," said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president, Microsoft business solutions, during a keynote address. "We will stay the course ... we will help you endure, prevail and win."
Some new products announced Tuesday are meant to bolster that promise.
A new update for CRM Online adds a service-level agreement guaranteeing 99.9 percent uptime. Customers will get a credit for one month's service in the case of any unscheduled outages, Microsoft said. The update also includes cloud integration services, for connecting with other applications, and "quick-start tools" that help customers learn how to use the tools fast.
Microsoft is also shipping eight new CRM Accelerators, add-on modules that can be downloaded at no charge. Accelerators are available for analytics, enterprise search, event management and sales methodologies, among other areas.
Showgoers were also being offered up to 20 percent off Dynamics AX, GP, NAV and SL product and support purchases.
Meanwhile, the recession presents an opportunity for companies to shake up the way they run IT, for the better, Tatarinov said.
"Today, many people fall into a trap of thinking this is going to end and go back to normal," he said. "When [the economy] comes back it is not going to be back to normal. We need to position ourselves today for the different world that will emerge."
Tatarinov elaborated during a post-keynote Q&A session.
He referred to the ongoing economic stimulus efforts by governments around the world, but said, "it's not happening for free. The price tag is deeper regulation and stricter compliance that can only be delivered through tools and through automation."
Also, members of "Generation Y" who grew up using Facebook will demand business software that doesn't need a thick instruction manual, he said.
To that end, Tatarinov's keynote touched upon the "role-tailored" user interface features Microsoft has begun adding to Dynamics.
He also provided attendees a peek into the future, demonstrating business applications developed for use with a Surface multitouch computer.
One program was for a warehouse operation, where a Surface application station might make sense versus a laptop, due to the potentially dirty and dusty environment and because workers are constantly walking around.
Microsoft expects that over time, the company's integration partners will end up building such applications on a case-by-case basis for their customers, according to Tatarinov.
He added that the same surface application could run on Windows 7, which has multitouch capabilities, when the new operating system is released. To that end, Microsoft is already developing a multitouch business-process-modeling tool for Dynamics.
Convergence continues throughout the week in New Orleans.