By Valerie Miller, Contributing Writer

Partners, vendors and users have been clamoring for it, and now Microsoft is giving them what they want: Microsoft Dynamics CRM browser compatibility, as well as an HTML5 interface and mobile apps are on their way.

After some delays, Microsoft will be launching a cross-browser compatible version of Dynamics CRM by the year's end in what is now know as the "Polaris" release.  It will be followed by the "Orion" release in the second quarter of 2013. The announcement was made Tuesday (October 2) at eXtremeCRM 2012 in Las Vegas.

An updated statement of direction will also be made available next week, officials said. The news came during the Dynamics CRM product management team's roadmap session today.

"One important highlight of the [Polaris] release is the cross-browser (feature)," said Dynamics CRM product manager Craig Dewar. "We will unveil cross-browser in an on-premise release because there has been such as demand for it, in December, when the Polaris release comes out."

Dewar also explained that Microsoft will offer an update roll-up, UR12, for existing customers soon after the initial release of Polaris.

Microsoft had delayed a planned July announcement on a new cross-browser compatible release of Dynamics CRM due at least in part, they said at the time, to issues hitting the necessary level of quality across all the planned browsers. Currently, Dynamics CRM software is supported on Internet Explorer only.

Just in time for the holidays, Dynamics CRM users will find it easier to Skype with loved ones, as well as clients and business contacts. The new "click to Skype" feature will be introduced in the Polaris release, according to Dewar. Click-to-call will also be available for Lync.

Other selling points of the Polaris update include more and better compatibility between online and on-premise CRM platforms. In addition, CRM customers in the US federal government will be able to get the cloud experience on federal premises.

The Orion release  is planned for release in the second quarter of 2013 and will take the HTML5 vision offered since WPC 2012 and bring it to users. "The Orion release will have a very tailored look. We are building an HTML5 experience that can cross multiple devices," said Dewar.

The HTML5 experience is intended to work across devices, possibly even as an alternative to platform-specific mobile apps.  And without outright naming Microsoft's competitors' wildly popular mobile devices, Dewar assured the new HTML5 interface would be good match for those, as well.

Another delayed item, mobile apps for Dynamics CRM from Microsoft, will finally arrive with the Orion release, again in the second quarter of next year.  

In a demo for the Extreme CRM crowd at the Las Vegas Hotel, Eric Boocock, senior technical product manager for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, gave the audience a taste of what's to come in terms of Office integration of CRM via the new Agave add-on model for Office based on HTML5 and Javascript.

"In the Orion release, Agave will bring the applications into Outlook. CRM is one of those," Boocock explained.  Adopting the Agave technology has the potential to effectively change the way Dynamics CRM users interact wtih the product from Outlook, one of long-touted strengths of the Dynamics CRM experience.  But as Bill Patterson told a packed room at WPC 2012 in Houston, Outlook integration's luster has diminished in recent years as competitors have put out improved integrations of their own.

More developments in Dynamics CRM should make the users and sellers happy. Another planned Microsoft  release will also introduce CRM software that would be compatible with Microsoft Office 2013.  That new software will be available closer to the second quarter of next year, closer to the Orion release, Dewar said.

"We will deliver Office compatibility with Office 2013. That will happen in the Orion release's timeframe," Dewar said. "We are delivering cross-browser and we are delivering all the user experiences."

And users of the Office 2013-compatible CRM product can expect some welcome changes, Dewar added. Among those:  fewer pop-ups, and a more-linear design.

"no pop ups; flat; touch optimized" #msdynccrm Orion release in 2013 looks like a winner. #eXtremeCRM

— Brad Koontz (@FinServCRM) October 2, 2012

In a demo presented to Extreme CRM attendees Tuesday, Microsoft Dynamics showed why the changes in the Polaris release will eliminate the need for separate windows while using CRM. Fewer pop-up windows mean fewer headaches for users, said Boocock.

With the new software, users can easily look at their schedules and plan sales and service calls, he added.

"I just need to click on "qualify," Boocock said as he demonstrated how to mine sales leads. He predicted that the ease of use will entice customers. "They'll think: ‘It's kind of fun. I want to use this.'"