Microsoft offers apps discount to PeopleSoft customers

Software giant looks to lure away nervous users in wake of Oracle acquisition

NEW YORK - Hoping to lure away PeopleSoft customers nervous about Oracle's acquisition of their vendor, Microsoft is launching a migration program offering PeopleSoft customers licensing and support discounts on Microsoft's rival business applications.

Microsoft is offering migration guides, a 25 percent licensing discount, and a 25 percent discount on the first year of maintenance and support to PeopleSoft customers who buy software from the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) portfolio by June 22. MBS is the group that created Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) and houses Microsoft's acquired Great Plains and Navision accounting, e-commerce, analytics and human resource management applications. The migration program, offered globally, is available through Microsoft's channel of sales and implementation partners.

Microsoft has sent mixed signals about its interest in and ability to compete with PeopleSoft at the high end of the ERP (enterprise resource planning) market. When the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dragged Oracle to court last year to contest its PeopleSoft merger plans, MBS head Doug Burgum appeared as a DOJ witness to testify that Microsoft's business applications are suitable only for small and midsize companies. Burgum went so far as to admit problems with deploying MBS's Axapta software at office supplies maker Esselte, a company whose more than $1 billion in annual sales places it among the largest of Microsoft's business applications customers.

Despite Burgum's claims -- which the trial judge dismissed as unreliable and self-serving -- Microsoft continues to hold up its products as an option for almost any back-office need.

"There is a recent and strong history in PeopleSoft customers looking at our solutions since all of this news has been going on," MBS Corporate Vice President of Marketing and Strategy Tami Reller said Monday. Microsoft's migration offer covers all three of PeopleSoft's product sets, the World and EnterpriseOne applications PeopleSoft acquired from J.D. Edwards and the Enterprise software it aimed at its biggest and most complex customers.

"If you look at the world's largest enterprises, those companies are typically going to go with a non-Microsoft solution for their hubs, but their divisions could use a Microsoft solution," Reller said.

One Microsoft partner hoping to take advantage of the offer, New York-based services firm InterDyn AKA, said all seven of the PeopleSoft-to-Great Plains migration projects it has done in the past few years have been classic midmarket deployments of 100 or fewer seats. InterDyn AKA President Alan Kahn has seen increased interest in his firm's migration services since PeopleSoft began wrangling with Oracle nearly two years ago, but he doesn't think any of the deals AKA landed were primarily motivated by merger concerns.

"We haven't closed any specific deals since it became clear PeopleSoft would be bought," Kahn said. AKA's customers have generally chosen to migrate to reduce costs and simplify their IT infrastructure, he said. For smaller organizations that rely on Windows and Microsoft's Office applications, Microsoft business applications can be easier to integrate and use than PeopleSoft's more complex software.

That was why the American Bible Society decided several years ago to migrate from J.D. Edwards applications to Great Plains, according to Chief Technology Officer Nick Garbidakis. Paying a new round of licensing fees to buy the Great Plains software was still cheaper than continuing to pay maintenance and support fees to J.D. Edwards, and the Great Plains applications work more easily with the other Microsoft software the organization runs, Garbidakis said.

The American Bible Society, a New York nonprofit ministry, has 100 of its 200 staffers using an assortment of MBS products and add-ons from outside vendors, Garbidakis said. Working with AKA, the group completed its migration in several months and without any significant technical problems. Persuading users to accept the new software was the biggest challenge, Garbidakis said.

"Once they accepted it, they were much happier with the software," he said.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.