Wave goodbye to Microsoft’s foray into small business accounting software. Today they pulled the plug on their Office Accounting family:
Starting November 16, Microsoft is ending distribution and sales of its Microsoft Office Accounting product. Company officials began notifying customers of the decision on October 30.
All Microsoft Office Accounting products in the UK and North America are affected by the decision, including Office Accounting Express, Office Accounting Standard, Office Accounting Professional, Office Accounting Professional Plus, Office Accounting 3-user and Small Business Accounting.
Microsoft officials said that existing Office Accounting customers will get five years of mainstream, free support and five years of extended, paid support. Those who recently bought the product can return it for a refund within 30 days of purchase.
There are more details in the Office Accounting Discontinuation FAQs including a bit of gallows humor:
… we have determined that existing free templates within Office used with Excel was a better option for small businesses, and the Microsoft Dynamics ERP products were appropriate for mid-range organizations.
When free templates for Office and Excel spreadsheets are better than your small business accounting product, it really is time to close up shop. A more pertinent rationale is that Microsoft was never able to get traction in a market with strong existing players, notably Intuit’s QuickBooks.
In what seems to be an annual ritual similar to the yearly release of Microsoft Money, Microsoft today released Office Accounting 2008.
Microsoft has yet to make much of a dent in Intuit’s QuickBooks with its Office Small Business Accounting 2006 and while we knew that the next version was being renamed to Office Accounting 2007, it turns out that Microsoft had more cards up their sleeve as they revealed today:
Microsoft Corp. today announced the availability of Microsoft® Office Accounting Express 2007, financial management software designed for early startups and home-based businesses that currently use pen and calculator or spreadsheets to run their operations. Office Accounting Express 2007 consists of desktop software available as a free download and seven integrated online services.
The Office Accounting Express 2007 software will be available for free while third-party integrated premium online services are available for additional fees. Together, the software and services will enable businesses to harness the power of the Internet to sell products online, send invoices and receive payments electronically, process payroll, run credit reports, work with their accountant, and more — all from within their accounting application.
Office Accounting Express 2007 software will be available on http://www.ideawins.com. IdeaWins is a campaign highlighting how Office Accounting Express 2007 can help small businesses take the hassle out of financial and business management so they can spend more time making their ideas a reality.
For the small business that needs more than the free version offers:
Microsoft also announced that it will introduce Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007, the successor to Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006. This is a comprehensive business management solution for small businesses with more complex needs such as inventory management, multicurrency invoicing, multiuser access and fixed asset management. In early 2007, Office Accounting Professional will be available in retail stores for an estimated retail price of $149. Until then, a trial version will be available.
Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 will provide additional features, such as business dashboard, cash flow management tool, purchase and sales orders, job costing, a wider variety of financial reports, and the ability to connect to Microsoft Dynamics™ Point-of-Sale.
In addition, Office Accounting Professional 2007 will enhance business efficiency by allowing multiple people within an organization to access and work with relevant financial information based on each person’s role in the accounting process.
There’s also a press Q&A, but head on over to the IdeaWins website for a FAQ which includes this comparison of features between the two versions. Both feature substantial Office integration, but I have to observe that the Office Live integration is mostly to permit sharing of data with an accountant, but there are other online services from 3rd parties. The current users of Office Small Business Accounting 2006 can buy a version upgrade to the Office Accounting Pro version for an estimated $99. Of course, either version is considerably cheaper than Intuit’s QuickBooks, but the question is whether that will finally get Microsoft some traction in this market.
Update: Mario Morejon at CRN provides a glowing review of this pair. One interesting aspect:
Microsoft combined both products into a single install, so users only need to add a key to activate the Professional trial version. … Express users will be able to activate the full Professional version as well from their install without having to download new software.
The eyeball auction continues apace as Yahoo signs up Acer:
Yahoo Inc. has signed a multiyear distribution deal to feature its Internet search services on all personal computers from Taiwan’s Acer Inc., the world’s No. 4-ranked computer notebook maker, the companies said on Wednesday.
Acer, which is the top supplier of PC notebooks in Europe and the third-ranked manufacturer in Asia, plans to feature Yahoo as the default way users search on the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser.
The deal, described as a strategic partnership by officials from both companies — with further ties to come — calls for Acer to distribute a co-branded Web browser toolbar and PC start page with Yahoo as the default search service.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Meanwhile, Jupiter Research’s Joe Wilcox says, “Now Microsoft can worry,” since Google has done a deal with software vendor Intuit that has more meat in it:
Intuit and Google are making a big play for small businesses.
When QuickBooks 2007 hits the shelves later this fall, buyers will also get the Google Desktop, easy access to Google AdWords, and the ability to embed their product listings and physical locations on Google Base and Google Maps, respectively.
While Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Intuit CEO Steve Bennett positioned this as a pairing of best-in-class partners trying to serve customers, many saw it as a pre-emptive assault on Microsoft’s nascent Windows Live and Office Live franchises, which both target small-business customers.
“QuickBooks will integrate several Google services in a way that would help small business make themselves better known. For example, businesses could easily incorporate their info into Google Maps and get $50 credit to be used toward AdWords Listings,” Bennett told reporters and analysts on a call Wednesday afternoon.
The anticipated upside: Google will sell more ads, Intuit will sell more QuickBooks, and small businesses will sell more stuff, the two executives said.
But is it pre-emptive or reactive? You may recall that Microsoft’s Office 2007 Accounting (which competes with QuickBooks) just went into beta with heavy tie-ins to eBay and PayPal.