Microsoft moves the business goalposts

Link: Sage shares hit by Microsoft launch

The impending launch in the US of Microsoft’s new small business accounting software will have a massive global impact on its rivals, customers and even accountants, according to industry experts.

The software, expected with the next version of Microsoft Office in the US within 12 months, will be targeted at entry-level businesses. It will hit UK shores soon after.

Dave Reynolds, founder of the Independent Association of Accountants Information Technology Consultants, said that the launch would change the whole ‘dynamic’ of the accounting and business software industry.

‘I think they will have to improve their game, because if you have the choice of standard bookkeeping products, such as Sage or Intuit, against a suite that does so much more, my guess is that, if Microsoft prices it right, then they’ll move the goalposts. Other suppliers will have to offer more functionality.’

And he suggested that accountants could find themselves with massive opportunities to grow in the future.

‘For accountants, this is not just a bookkeeping product. The opportunity is that the software has much more functionality – and accountants that embrace this will potentially have another revenue stream.’

He added that accountants would have to ‘improve their skills’ to get the most out of this integrated software.

Dennis Keeling, chief executive of BASDA, said the launch of an integrated suite was ‘inevitable’ and ‘positive’. ‘We’re moving from lots of systems that don’t talk to each other to ones that do, and this is a key step,’ said Keeling.

John Coulthard, Microsoft director of small business, said that the launch will lead to more businesses using accounting software, which must be a ‘good thing for the general marketplace’. ‘We think it will improve small businesses owner/manager. There’s nothing like it really in Office.’

He expected the updated product to reach UK shores in the next two years. ‘Yes, it will come to the UK. We know there will be a release of Office in the next couple of years, so that kind of timeframe is reasonable, in the ballpark,’ Coulthard said.

Sage UK MD Paul Stobart said: ‘We have been aware for some time that Microsoft would try and put some kind of accounting functionality into Office. With more than 500 support personnel in our Newcastle support centre we are ideally placed to provide our UK customers with the best possible service. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft intend to match this support offering.’

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