Apple fans aren't getting any closer to seeing Microsoft Office on the iPad, but they can celebrate new Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online support for their favorite tablet. Microsoft announced an optional update for its Dynamics CRM Online service that adds support for the iPad and Yammer.
Users log in to the online application through the Web browser from the iPad just as they would from a laptop or desktop. iPad users can then access most functionality, although Microsoft admitted there are a few exceptions.
"We've designed this feature for sales representatives who need to get work done from the road, while they're on sales calls," Microsoft said this week. "We've eliminated pop-up windows from the user interface and made it simpler to use with the touch screen."
What You Can't Do
Here's how it works: When you look at the navigation pane on the left, you'll only see "What's new," "Account," "Contact," "Lead," "Opportunity" and "Dashboards." You may be able to navigate to other forms, but viewing them will take you to Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
According to Microsoft, you can make quick edits there, but it's not for high-volume work. Customized forms will always open in Mobile Express. The "Home" and "Most Recently Used" buttons are removed, and the navigation pane is collapsed by default when in portrait mode.
Microsoft said customized forms will show up only in a very basic layout. If you have added client scripts to any of the forms listed above, the company explained, you'll still be able to access them normally on other devices -- but your customizations will not be present on the iPad.
What's more, you won't be able to access the process editor for sales or service forms. You won't be able to share records or access the form editor. You will be able to edit records individually, but you won't be able to edit them in bulk. You can't resize a chart, but you can maximize and minimize it.
A Good Next Step
We turned to Rob Helm, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, to better understand the potential value of the optional product update for iPad users. He told us because Dynamics CRM has a generic mobile browser interface, it is very limited and not suitable for all-day, every-day use.
"What the new iPad interface is supposed to offer is a new version of the sales interface that's much more friendly. It's something that a salesperson could use as the main port into CRM, at least for sales functions," Helm said.
According to Helm, Microsoft didn't intend the update to be an all-encompassing CRM interface that handles marketing, customer service and other non-sales functions. Rather, it aims to serve as a better front-end solution for people using Dynamics CRM Online on the iPad. Still, it's an important step.
"Mobile is probably one of the most important things all the CRM vendors are focusing on right now. As soon as you think mobile, iPad is inevitable," Helm said. "Because it's a browser interface, it's not something they can work with offline. That's something Microsoft is heading for longer term but it's not there yet. Microsoft originally considered rolling out some mobile apps from a partner but it sort of pulled back and is developing its own."