Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (CRM) only works on a Windows based machines via Internet Explorer (IE) as officially supported by Microsoft. Unfortunately there is no change between CRM v4 options and 2011 for working with a Mac. Though Microsoft may change their mind in the future we need to look at alternative solutions. In a corporate environment more Apple Mac’s are showing up on people’s desktops and they want access to CRM related data. In order to accomplish this it is important to evaluate what type of access these Mac users need. Some may need view only or look-up capabilities. Others may require full fledge CRM with no Outlook integration. Many most likely need CRM with the CRM Outlook plug-in. This allows for emails to be easily tracked as well as Contacts, Calendar items and Tasks to be synced between CRM and Microsoft Outlook. Once this evaluation is completed then you can look at options that are available. These options are below and describe the type of access each user would get with each scenario. All options are applicable for a CRM Online or On-premise deployment of CRM.
1. Access CRM via a Terminal Server (TS) via Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and/or Citrix. This would allow a user to be on their normal Mac with the Mac operating system and then RDP to a Terminal Server to access CRM. On the Terminal Server they could access CRM through IE or they could access CRM through the Outlook client. The downside is that they need to manage their email exclusively on this TS desktop or manage their email in two places. Users of TS still have cut and paste capabilities and the ability to move files between their Mac and the TS. Obviously there are some licensing costs to consider with this solution as the Mac user will need access to a Windows Client Access License (CAL), Office CAL, etc. By the way, there is a growing trend in desktop management to centralize all applications and not to run any applications local. This is using these same technologies but instead of some applications being local and others centralized, just centralize the entire desktop.
2. Take the Mac machines (assuming they have an Intel chip) and install Microsoft Windows on them and then use the Mac with Office, IE, etc. This would give them full support CRM/Outlook Client. Though this is an option, not that realistic for Mac users. Most users report that Macs actually run faster with the Windows operating system.
3. Have the Mac users switch to a Windows based PC. This would allow them full support for not only CRM but others Windows based applications in the corporate environment. Though this is an option, not that realistic for Mac users.
4. If the user only requires look-up and viewing capabilities into CRM, then I would have them use Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile Express 2011 out of the box. This solution is “included” with CRM and is a no cost solution. Mobile Express is fully customizable and can be expanded if needed based on the requirements of the system. Unfortunately this solution would not allow for CRM integration with Outlook. There are other third parties like TenDigits, CRW and Resco that also have solutions for mobile that should also work on a Mac. Though these are specifically written for a mobile platform (such as Android, Windows Mobile and iPad/iPhone) they should also work on a Mac. Obviously these third parties come at additional cost and expense to purchase, administer and support. Though on the mobile devices these solutions may have email integration with Outlook available for CRM, it would not on a Mac.
5. The final solution is VMware Fusion 3. This solution allows for Mac users to have locally installed software on their Max to be able to access CRM. This is a similar solution to #1 but allows for more flexibility as they are not connecting to a centralized server. It also adds more administration as each user not only needs a local copy of VMware Fusion but also Windows, etc. installed inside the virtual image. Unfortunately this still has some limitations around the CRM Outlook integration. A copy of VMware Fusion will run you $80-$100 per user. There is also Boot Camp with Parallels Desktop that runs with Boot Camp but from my understanding the VMware solution has less of a performance hit. The cost of the solution is similar.