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Microsoft updates business software

The software giant issues its first updates to business applications acquired earlier this year. It's all part of the company's enterprise software push.

Microsoft released Monday the first update to business software acquired in its billion-dollar buy of Navision earlier this year.

The software giant acquired Navision earlier this year for $1.45 billion as part of its long-planned move into the market for enterprise applications--complex programs designed to help companies do such things as process orders and manage inventory, as well as track customers, suppliers and employees.

Microsoft said a new version of Navision's Axapta 3.0, an application designed to help enterprises with resource planning, includes more features to allow medium-size companies to conduct business online.

The software, available in the United States on Nov. 18, includes tools to build private Web sites, where businesses can post reports or product catalogs, and securely exchange business documents with partners and suppliers. For instance, a supplier can submit shipment notices to the Web system, reducing the need for phone calls, faxes and e-mail.

The average starting price for the software is around $120,000, Microsoft said.

Also on Monday, Microsoft released Navision 3.6, a separate line of business applications for supply chain management formerly sold under the Attain label. The new version, already available in Europe, will now be sold in the United States, Microsoft said. The average starting price for the software is around $65,000, Microsoft said.

The release includes enhancements for moving inventory in and out of warehouses efficiently using wireless technology. The software also exchanges data more easily with Microsoft Office applications than previous versions, Microsoft said.

The company sees its push into enterprise business applications as just one element of a broader strategy.

As sales of its mainstay Office business software begin to wane, Microsoft is hoping to tap into the multibillion-dollar potential of the enterprise software market and the twin technologies that have become hot corporate trends in recent years--enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, better known in the business as ERP and CRM.

Microsoft's acquisition of Navision follows on from its purchase of Great Plains for $1.1 billion. Together, the two companies constitute Microsoft Business Solutions, one of seven lines of business that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer named as core areas of focus and investment for the company.