The beta version of the long awaiting UR9 / Q2 2012 Service Update / R8 is finally here! Yes, these acronyms are referring to the same thing.

To get your hands on the UR9 beta, you will need to do the following:

1. Provision an account on R8 Beta Connect site by clicking on this linkhttps://connect.microsoft.com/site687/InvitationUse.aspx?ProgramID=7663&InvitationID=crnb-FJTQ-QPB3

2. Complete the brief R8 Beta Access Survey. Note: you will need to complete Step 1 before clicking on this link. http://connect.microsoft.com/site687/Survey/Survey.aspx?SurveyID=14211

3. Access the R8 Beta package from this link. Note: you will need to complete the above steps before granted access to this package. https://connect.microsoft.com/site687/Downloads

Any questions / comments regarding R8 Beta can be directed to the R8 Beta Discussion Group

This beta release is NOT for production release. This is mainly directed to developers and partners to prepare themselves for the final release of R8.

NEW FEATURES

The R8 release delivers a bunch of exciting new features. Here are the complete list.

1. CRM Anywhere

Now you can access Microsoft Dynamics CRM from PC, Mac or even smart phones. For PC, you can access it using IE 7+, Firefox 6+ or Chrome 13+ on computer running Windows 7 / Vista / XP. On Mac and iPad 2 (running iOS 5+), however, the only way you can access CRM is by using Safari 5.1.1+.

The support for smart phones are pretty broad as well. It supports Windows Phone (OS 7.5+), Apple iPhone 3GS+ (iOS 5+), Android (OS 2.2+) and even Blackberry (6.x and 7.x).

For a complete list of supported models, please refer to this document.

2. Rapid View forms

Rapid view forms are normally used by a group of users who primarily use CRM to look up information with no immediate need to modify the information. With Rapid View forms, the ribbon button will be hidden and the form will be opened in view mode with 2 menu bar buttons for Close and Edit record.

3. Enhanced Social

The 'Like' and 'Unlike' features finally made it to the Activity feeds. Now you can like or unlike posts just like Facebook. Another new feature is the @me filter which allows you to see all posts that mention you. An update to the Mobile Activity Feed for Windows Phone is also scheduled to be released when the final version of R8 is released.

4. Industry Solution Templates

Microsoft is committed to deliver a range of templates that illustrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM's suitability and flexibility for a range of industries such as Insurance Sales, Non-Profit, Health Plan Sales and Wealth Management. These industry solution templates will be published on the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.

There is a little asterisk with this. Microsoft will not be officially supporting the industry solution templates. But fear no more, the CRM Community from around the world will be there to support and help.

5. Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Support

When Microsoft SQL Server 2012 is fully RTM-ed, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will be ready to take full advantage of all the performance benefits and new features offered by SQL Server 2012.

Some of the awesome features from SQL Server 2012:

- Significantly boost query performance by up to ~100 times for star join and similar queries.

- Support blazing fast queries with dramatic improvement for Full Text Search

- High scale with support for up to 256 cores!

6. Business Intelligence Insights with Power View

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 introduces a new Reporting Services Add-in for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
called Power View, previously code-named Project Crescent. Power View is a next-generation BI tool for
interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation. It provides intuitive ad-hoc reporting for business
users such as data analysts, business decision makers and information workers. In short, Power View provides
better business insights and collaboration for casual and experienced users alike. Power View allows a user to
configure reports that connect to Microsoft Excel’s PowerPivot or SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).

Power View Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Release Preview Guide, Q2 2012 is so much more than just breathtaking end user analytics visualizations and tools, it redefines the data analysis process for business and technical users alike.

7. Portal Framework Enhancements

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Q2 service update includes enhancements to the portal framework that powers
customer and partner portals connecting to Microsoft Dynamics CRM (both online and on-premises). These
portals can be run in your data center or in Windows Azure. The Q2 2012 service update includes the ability for
portals to use Microsoft Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) for authentication. This empowers
organizations to setup various standards-based identity providers such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Windows
Live ID and ADFS 2.0 for portals that require authenticated sign-on security.

8. Custom Workflow Activities in CRM Online

This has to be my absolute favorite feature of this release. This awesome feature really close off the gaps between CRM On-Premise and CRM Online. You can create the custom workflow activities using C# and deploy the assembly to CRM Online as you would in On-Premise.