Is Microsoft trying to pull a SugarCRM?

Microsoft is using open source as a key business strategy in its CRM product line.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

I read this CNET interview with Microsoft CRM division general manager Brad Wilson, and it felt like I was reading an interview with SugarCRM CEO John Roberts.

No, Roberts doesn't talk about lock-in, monopoly power, and such, but then, neither does Wilson.

Instead, Wilson discusses values that are core to open source: adoption, choice, and lower cost (as well as open source!)

When asked how Microsoft CRM is going to win in the market, he said:

...[F]or us, user adoption is key. If they (the users) are not going to use the system, you are pretty much guaranteed a failed deployment.

We give you enough flexibility so that you can run the system how you want to. So I find we will beat a classic offering from your CRM vendors on end-user adoption and platform flexibility. Those factors will far outweigh the fact that other people have more prebuilt stuff [only 7 percent of which, at least in one case, actually fits without modification]....

I think the old model of 10 years ago, where you built a system that had a big slab of stuff that you had to adopt, has gone. At the same time, we will still bring out our accelerators with pre-packaged software, and more and more of them. But we release them as open source. The idea is that we just put this stuff out there and let people use it. And, if our partners use it, all the better.

Did you catch that? Instead of making its core open source, as SugarCRM does, Microsoft is going the other way, open sourcing the complements to its core. You pay for the core, but the complements are free. It's an interesting twist on the open-source model, and particularly so since it's being used by Microsoft.

We're definitely seeing convergence in the market: proprietary vendors embracing open-source complements, and open-source vendors embracing proprietary complements. This, however, is the first time I've seen Microsoft baldly identify open source as a key business strategy.

The times they are a-changin'.

I used to think that Microsoft would make a likely suitor for SugarCRM. Now it appears it decided to become SugarCRM, instead.

Disclosure: I am an adviser to SugarCRM.