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Microsoft stand-alone Outlook with CRM built-in released

The Contacts feature in Microsoft Outlook 2007 gets a huge overhaul, with a new version released this morning that includes a Business Contact Manager. But that new feature will be an option, and for some, a costly upgrade.

Since it was introduced as part of Exchange 5.5, Microsoft Outlook has had the ability to record contacts on a simple database stored on the client’s system. As time went on, that contacts list was shared with Windows…for better or worse. But the contacts system has essentially been a flat-file database, not a relational one. So while you could group contacts according to company, you couldn’t exactly use that list as a way to maintain information that pertains to those contacts.

What’s more, if you did have a customer relationship management system, you’d find yourself trying to find a way to reconcile the contacts list in Outlook with the one in your CRM program, even if it was from Microsoft.

This morning, Microsoft has come up with a new approach to the problem for which some Outlook users have been asking for over a decade: It’s amending Outlook to be able to handle business contacts in a relational manner — for example, to group customers by the contact who brought them to you, or to maintain custom data on those customers. Contact management is being built directly into Outlook.

But there’s a catch: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, as the product will now be known, is a separate version of Outlook that will be integrated, starting today, into Office Small Business, Professional, and Ultimate editions. For those who already have Office editions with the pre-existing Outlook 2007, or who purchase Outlook or Office without the Business Contact Manager, the new version will be available separately as a replacement for $149.95.

“There’s a ‘referred-by’ field,” Outlook senior product manager Ann Quaranta told BetaNews, “so you can track how you were referred to this person or how you found out about this person.” If a user has purchased a marketing list, or has gathered names from a trade show, Quaranta explained, she can now keep track of how her contacts were obtained.

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Microsoft, Outlook, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Office Outlook, CRM, Release

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