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Microsoft’s Remote Assist is coming under the Dynamics 365 umbrella. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft is putting some additional horsepower behind its Dynamics 365 business applications, with the addition of new artificial intelligence tools and mixed reality capabilities.

Dynamics 365 combines customer relationship management software and enterprise resource planning under an umbrella of productivity apps. It’s not the catchiest offering, but the company said Dynamics 365 hit $1 billion in billings last year, and revenue from the program has grown 60 percent since Microsoft began disclosing it in the third quarter of 2017.

The new applications introduced today are designed to help make life easier for salespeople, customer service personnel and marketing teams. The apps are meant to give businesses “out of the box” AI capabilities without having to bring in a bunch of experts.

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In addition to the new AI-powered apps, Microsoft is bringing a pair of recently introduced mixed reality programs into the Dynamics 365 fold. Unveiled at Microsoft Build earlier this year, Remote Assist and Layout are apps for the HoloLens mixed reality headset meant to appeal to “first-line workers,” people who don’t sit at desks all day and have direct interactions with either customers or equipment.

Remote Assist lets users fire up a video call with a real person elsewhere through HoloLens. The person on the other end can see through the eyes of the HoloLens and annotate the field of vision with directions. Layout lets users virtually plan out areas, such as manufacturing facilities, by dropping digital versions of large equipment into the real life space.

While introducing the new capabilities for Dynamics 365, Microsoft pointed to a recent article from MarketWatch opining that the service is giving Salesforce a run for its money. It was interesting to see Microsoft explicitly call out a competitor as part of a larger point that the company is taking market share from established top players in a variety of areas, such as cloud computing with Azure and productivity tools with Teams.

Here’s how Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research, concludes his take on Microsoft’s surge with Dynamics 365:

Salesforce has never faced real competition in the CRM space, at least until now. If Microsoft gets this right, Salesforce could be looking at a very tough fight over the next few years.

Much like Azure has taken a meaningful chunk of the market from Amazon’s AWS in cloud, I believe that within the next year Microsoft will start to do the same to Salesforce.

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