Microsoft has taken a tentative step into the small business software market and has reiterated a commitment to its mid-market Great Plains, Navision and Axapta software.
The software giant has extended its partnership with Norwegian-based Mamut Software, a provider of software for businesses with few than 50 employees, to form the ‘Small Business Concierge’, an initiative that compliments the products offered by Microsoft Business Solutions.
The announcement was made at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, attended by more than 5,000 of its partners, software vendors and resellers. ‘The Small Business Concierge offering that we announced with Mamut at the Worldwide Partner Conference is a great example of what can be achieved by a product development focus on simplicity and integration,’ declared Simon Edwards, general manager UK and Ireland of Microsoft Business Solutions.
Edwards was unable to comment on the effect that the partnership would have on the European software market, but added: ‘We believe that this offering does provide a strong solution and excellent value to small businesses and will be a great success.’
Doug Burgum, senior vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions, also issued a rallying call to the software giant’s partners and resellers, to deal with the ‘big challenge’ of pushing greater sales of business software.
Burgum urged Microsoft partners to view the SME sector as an ‘addressable market’ that is a ‘huge economic opportunity’.
He said that Microsoft can change the way companies interact with their customers and suppliers to help SMEs realise their potential, by using its business software. He also claimed that mid-market businesses want ‘one supplier’ to provide them with a ‘full business solution’.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, confirmed during his keynote speech that it would have been ‘too disruptive’ to move Microsoft Business Solutions’ products in line with its other products too soon after they were acquired. ‘We’re moving step by step,’ he added.
But Microsoft is pushing forward with a strategy to add a common set of enhancements to its business software. These include integration with Office programs, along with improved analytical tools and a greater ability to customise. ‘Customers will see a consistent direction with these improvements: giving them more powerful tools and lowering the cost of using them,’ said Edwards.
Great Plains 8 contains 150 enhancements to previous versions, including the addition of analytical accounting features.
The ultimate goal for Microsoft is to merge the various strands of its back office products into one code set. It will use its next generation operating system, codenamed Longhorn, as the basis of this common set, expected to be ready in 2006.