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Microsoft ups Salesforce, Oracle rivalry with new cloud product

| Saturday, July 9, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Microsoft Corp. is revamping its software applications that help businesses manage tasks such as accounting, human resources and customer management, grouping them together in a unified cloud product that promises to sort and analyze customer information more seamlessly.

The new Dynamics 365 combines disparate products to let customers choose what apps they need for functions such as finance, field service, sales, operations, marketing and customer service, said Takeshi Numoto, who oversees marketing for Microsoft's cloud and enterprise business. The cloud services will include data analysis and visualization tools from Microsoft's Power BI and tools from Cortana to predict things like which items and services a customer will need.

Microsoft is trying to boost growth of the business applications products — once overseen by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella — by moving them to the cloud, which also can help juice sales of Microsoft's Azure service, which sells computing power from the company's data centers. Last month, Microsoft also agreed to buy LinkedIn Corp., beating out a bid from cloud rival Salesforce.com Inc. and boosting the technology behind the Dynamics product.

“We see business applications as a big opportunity in and of itself, but also as an opportunity to drive customers to Azure,” Numoto said in an interview.

The products will be available in the fall and will be closely connected to Microsoft's cloud version of Office. So, for example, emails from a sales representative can draw on pricing and discount information stored in Dynamics without leaving Office's Outlook e-mail program.

The Dynamics services also can connect to third-party programs including those from rivals such as Oracle Corp., SAP SE and Salesforce, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also is introducing AppSource, a marketplace for customers to find and try out cloud-based services from the company and its partners. Initially, it will contain more than 200 apps.

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