Intuit prepares for Microsoft fight

A senior Intuit director has revealed that the way remains open for the software company to challenge Microsoft in the courts over the inclusion of an accounting module in Microsoft Office later this year.

Link: Vendors take ‘dim view’ of Microsoft

The launch of Microsoft’s accounting module is expected to be an era-defining moment for the small business global software market, potentially attracting hundreds of thousands more SMEs into using accounting software.

But concerned software industry rivals have suggested that the launch would be ‘anti-competitive’ if the software is bundled in free of charge with Microsoft Office.

Terry Hicks, director of Intuit’s US-based small business product QuickBooks, told Accountancy Age that the company could take a two-pronged approach to Microsoft.

His own team would exploit a long-established network of accountants who act as trusted advisers, a base Microsoft does not have. But he could not rule out the possibility of other divisions of Intuit taking their battle against Bill Gates to the courts.

‘In my view, this is our market,’ said Hicks. ‘We’re not expending our energy and focus on taking Microsoft to court in my own team. But it’s not to say others aren’t expending energy on this in Intuit.’

Its network of accountants across the US would prove vital in persuading clients to stay with QuickBooks, Hicks added.

‘At the end of the day, clients have a relationship with their accountants, and are a big part of our recommendation strategy. Even though it’s not strictly an accounting software product ð- it’s better than accountants receiving information in a shoebox.’

With Microsoft heading for a November release in the US, any action taken by Intuit would be watched closely in the UK by Sage.

The launch of the UK version of the module is expected in 2006. Paul Stobart, Sage’s UK managing director, has already talked up the possibility of Sage involving the European courts against Microsoft if the launch proved controversial.

‘It would seem odd if the competition commissions didn’t look into the situation,’ Stobart recently told Accountancy Age.

‘If we need to react then we will,’ a Sage spokesman said. ‘But we think this view is an industry issue -ð not Sage-specific.’

Microsoft has insisted that it has already resolved potential legal pitfalls in the accounting module. ‘Customers will have the choice between versions of Office with and without Small Business Accounting,’ said a spokeswoman.

There would be ‘ample opportunity for multiple vendors to co-exist and serve the technology needs of the nearly 40 million small businesses worldwide’, she added.

Last week, it emerged that the European Commission was heading for a clash with Microsoft after it dismissed the company’s plan for implementing last year’s anti-trust ruling.

Related reading

HMRC banknotes