Microsoft targets midmarket with Navision update

Microsoft is building on its 2002 buy of Danish business application developer, Navision A/S, with the release of its first major product built on the Navision software suite.

Dubbed Microsoft Navision 4.0, the software is aimed at strengthening the company's position in the business application market targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Microsoft has been trying to carve a niche in the category over the past few years, investing $US2.4 billion to enter the market with its buy of Navision and US midmarket business application provider, Great Plains Software.

The Navision 4.0 release includes financial, manufacturing, customer management, supply chain, analytics and e-commerce data tools and offers users a new interface modeled after Microsoft's Office Outlook 2003. The main change in the suite is its tighter integration with Microsoft's technology stack.

"To a large extent integration with Microsoft is what the release of 4.0 is about," business manager for Microsoft Business Solutions Navision, Jen Silleman, said.

For example, Excel was used as a viewer for the business analytics graphing tools, Silleman said, and new notification services were built on Microsoft's SQL Server.

The update is also aimed at connecting partners and customers, offering an Extensible Markup Language (XML) port so customers can customise the software for document exchange.

The suite is aimed at companies' inventory, manufacturing and business services needs, and although it is for SMBs, Microsoft is also pushing it for subsidiaries and divisions or branch offices of larger companies.

"A lot of the needs of small businesses are the same as the needs in big business," Silleman said.

However, Microsoft has been adamant that it is not setting its sights on the enterprise market dominated by the likes of SAP AG and Oracle.

The SMB market is highly fragmented, with one or two leading players in each country or region, according to RedMonk analyst, James Governor.

With no global leader and an estimated 40 million small business and 600,000 midsized companies worldwide, Microsoft predicts enormous market potential. It has said that it is investing $US10 billion in its SMB efforts over the next five years, in addition to $US1.7 billion for its partners program and $US850 million for the Microsoft Business Solutions group in fiscal 2005.

"We truly believe that we have a huge potential in that marketplace," Silleman said.

The new software will be released in Australia in the first quarter of next year.

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