The Microsoft Convergence 2005 conference kicked off on Monday with keynote speaker and senior vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions Doug Burgum laying out the vendor's schedule for the near future. After a short history lesson on global trading and business, Burgum gave MBS's product road map for the next couple of years. Some of the new releases coming out between now and late 2006 include Great Plains Version 8.5 by early September 2005 and Great Plains Version 9.0 by the end of 2006; and Axpata 4.0, Solomon 7.0 and Navision 7.0 also in 2006. In 2008, Burgum stated, MBS will be releasing products with more modular process configuration, enhanced Visual Studio .Net tools, and a best-of-process library. But Burgum also said that with the inclusion of five years of tech support for new Microsoft ERP packages, upgrades will not be necessary until 2010. "There is no need for upgrades," he said. "Companies can move at their own pace." The central strategy, Burgum stressed, is to help users "build a better company" by providing rich functionality, low costs, and high adaptability with a more secure system. "Software is a backdrop to business," said Burgum, "and Microsoft is the best software company out there. We eat, live and breathe software." He also suggested, without relaying any specifics, that users will see more unstructured material like e-mail data become integrated with structured processes like financial reporting.

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