Microsoft To Take Another Swing At Small-Biz Accounting

The current offering, Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006, launched with fanfare last fall. But solution providers and competitors say the product pretty much disappeared after that. They said Microsoft's decision to piggyback it on Office at retail hamstrung sales. People look for accounting software in the aisle with Sage Software’s Peachtree and Intuit’s QuickBooks, not with Office, said one accounting VAR, who requested anonymity.

The new Office 2007 version will add multicurrency support, a multiclient navigator, a payroll center for accountants and an accountant transfer wizard. And via a joint effort with eBay, users will be able to list and sell items on eBay from within their application.

The Equifax partnership will allow Small Business Accounting users to tap into the company's credit reporting services, while Paypal will add new invoice payment and merchant processing services.

Microsoft’s current Small Business Accounting release features tie-ins to Automatic Data Processing for payroll processing, Chase Merchant Services for credit card processing and Deluxe for check processing.

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There were no specifics on timing other than that the release is pegged to that of the broader Office 2007 wave. Those products, beta two of which just hit the Web, are slated to be generally available early next year. The SBA 2007 suite, however, is not in beta yet.

Sage CEO Ron Verni recently told CRN he was amazed at how little impact the release had had in the market. One analyst who follows the company agreed, and wondered privately why Microsoft needs to be in that market.

Microsoft professes to be pleased with the uptake, however. "Although Microsoft doesn’t release sales information, with more than 40 million small businesses worldwide and almost 24 million in the U.S., there is a lot of opportunity for players in the marketplace. Small businesses are different and have different needs. Customers want choice, and SBA provides them another choice," a spokeswoman said.