Technology – UK challenge to Microsoft.

Intuit, the software provider for small businesses, has challenged Microsoft’s plans to move into the small business arena, after stating that between itself and Sage, the market was ‘sewn up’.

It is understood Microsoft is close to launching into the software market for small business and will unveil its bCentral service, including bCentral Finance Manager – an online accounting and finance application for small businesses.

Intuit was speaking as it revealed it will be launching its revamped version 9.0 of its QuickBooks and QuickBooks Pro 2001 financial management and accounting software at the beginning of March.

Microsoft attempted unsuccessfully to buy Intuit several years ago. A spokesman for Intuit said: ‘Between Quickbooks and Sage’s Instant Accounting product, we have a sizeable marketshare and established products. However, we welcome the competition as it will enable the end-user to have more choice. It will be a difficult market to penetrate.’

He added: ‘We are not frightened of Microsoft, having already fended them off in the personal accounting arena. We can do this on the business side also.’

Microsoft is also waiting for its acquisition of Great Plains to be confirmed.

A spokesman for Microsoft confirmed it was ‘working on a number of online offerings’, although launch dates have yet been confirmed.

Intuit will replace QuickBooks version 8.0 – launched last April – after spending the last year developing the product.

As part of the research into the launch the company asked an estimated three million of its customers around the world for their input into the latest release.

The result of the research, includes the addition of 25 new features and improvements over the previous version. QuickBooks 2001 will cost from #99 and QuickBooks Pro 2001 will sell from #249.

Intuit, added: ‘One of the new features designed with the accountant in mind is the inclusion of a traditional UK style balance sheet for the first time. It will be able to run alongside the existing QuickBooks format which previous issues have featured.

Another feature now included for the benefit of accountants is the default bank account setting which prevents cheques being written from the wrong bank account.’

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