As part of a multiyear global strategic alliance, Siebel Systems will incorporate Microsoft's .Net software into products and participate in related development and marketing efforts, the companies announced Monday.As part of a multiyear global strategic alliance, Siebel Systems will incorporate\u00a0Microsoft's\u00a0.Net\u00a0software into products and participate in related development and marketing efforts, the companies announced Monday.As part of the partnership, Siebel has committed to using the .Net technology with the next generation of its customer relationship management applications, including its enterprise sales, marketing and service applications, the companies said in a joint statement.The announcement was the opening salvo of Siebel's Worldwide User Week in Los Angeles, which will also include a keynote address by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates later in the day.Siebel also announced it has begun shipping its Universal Application Network, aimed at simplifying connections between products, including non-Siebel applications."There are basically three main elements to the agreement: Microsoft will provide support to the Universal Application Network, Siebel will support .Net and Siebel will also support .Net on the client side," said Neil Morgan, vice president marketing, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), in a telephone news conference.System integrators and integration server vendors, including IBM, Accenture, Tibco Software. and webMethods Inc. expressed support for Universal Application Network when it was first announced last April. The Universal Application Network comprises an integration server that connects applications, and a set of prepackaged business processes designed to let Siebel's software work with other products, such as those from rivals SAP AG and Oracle Corp.Siebel integration business processes can be implemented and executed on Universal Application Network using Microsoft BizTalk Server and Visual Studio .Net design tools, Morgan said. Siebel has also committed to optimizing its eBusiness Applications for Microsoft's Windows Server operating systems and Microsoft SQL Server along with the .Net framework, he said.Siebel has also agreed to use Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net as its primary development environment. "We are effectively future-proofing a customer's investment in our products," Morgan said.Siebel will work with Microsoft on development, marketing, global sales and integrated support for enterprise customers. The work will take place in joint development laboratories in San Mateo, Calif., and Redmond, Wash., Siebel and Microsoft said.The companies plan to deploy a joint salesforce of about 100 people worldwide, said Mark Greatorex, developer and director of .Net at Microsoft Ltd."Siebel and Microsoft have a common view on the direction of Web services and enterprise applications. Using .Net, Siebel eBusiness applications will be able to connect with an even greater range of mobile devices as well as new smart devices, such as Microsoft's Tablet PC which is coming to market shortly," Greatorex said.Already, over 600 Siebel customers worldwide have tested applications over .Net, Morgan said.While Siebel plans to integrate its product offering with .Net, it will however continue to also work with other platforms, most significantly Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition technology.When Siebel announced the latest version of its CRM eBusiness applications, Siebel 7.5, last month, the company stressed that keeping a balance between .Net and open standards was an important part of its strategy to compete with companies like SAP AG and PeopleSoft.With Microsoft also entering the CRM market, John Simpson, director, sales consulting, Siebel Systems U.K. said that the company was "writing off the small business market" that Microsoft was targeting. "It would be naive to say that in the long term, five years plus, Microsoft will remain happy with the small market and with the desktop. We're lucky because with Microsoft in Seattle and SAP in Germany, it's hard for them to collaborate, whereas we are in a good position to collaborate with Microsoft," Simpson said at the time.Morgan reiterated that though Siebel sees its alliance with Microsoft as "taking Siebel into new markets," the company was committed to offering its customers options, such as J2EE. "The vast majority of our customers are looking at both (.Net and J2EE) or are now deploying both," Morgan said.Furthermore, its relationship with Microsoft would have no impact on Siebel's other existing partnerships including BEA Systems Inc. and IBM, Morgan said.Microsoft will not be making an equity investment in Siebel as part of the agreement, Greatorex said. Last week, Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) Corp.'s research team issued a report speculating that Microsoft could announce during the keynote address a small minority investment in Siebel.