Microsoft Office for small business management, to be released in 2005 is a major push by Microsoft. Here’s more information on it from a Microsoft spokesperson, who answers some questions from Smallbiztechnology.com:
This product to be released in about a year, could you give me some more information on its positioning
1] Microsoft continues to deeply invest in helping small businesses be more efficient and better serve their customers through the adoption of IT solutions. As part of that strategy, we are highlighting how, together with our customers and partners, Microsoft is helping redefine “business management” for small businesses.
* Research and Understanding: Microsoft has conducted significant small business research and customer outreach to garner a deeper understanding of this unique market. This customer effort has fueled a strong customer connection model and provides us with an understanding of who they are, what they’re interested in and how to reach them.
* Right Solutions – Right Price: As a result of our research and ongoing customer outreach, we are able to bring to market the right solutions that address small business customers core business problems, such as Windows Small Business Server and Office Small Business Edition, both offered at the right price and built with the features customers have asked for.
* Customer Connection: The launch of the Small Business Center has proved a key component of connecting to small business customers and allowed Microsoft to scale and reach even more customers to provide the resources and support they need to run their business effectively.
* Helping Small Businesses Think Differently: Microsoft is working with small businesses to help them think about technology and its benefits in new and different ways to help give them a competitive edge.
* Customer for Life: The new offering has been built from the ground up to address the complete business management needs of small companies. Microsoft will offer an easy migration path for our other financial management solutions as these companies grow and their needs become more complex. Editor note: Customers for life is right out of Intuit’s play book
2] The new edition of Microsoft Office is optimized for small businesses management. We are bringing together a unique solution that includes the familiar Microsoft Office 2003 programs along with a NEW Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting application, a new financial management solution, and an updated multi-user version of Microsoft Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager.
3] With the addition of Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting and an updated version of Microsoft Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager to the Microsoft Office suite, small businesses will have best of breed functionality for key tasks that help address their most important business management needs.
4] This offering continues Microsoft’s commitment to provide strong opportunities across our entire partner ecosystem. Partners of all sizes and types, including ISVs, System Builders, VARs, retailers, OEMs and others, can contribute to these small business solutions, which help fuel local economies.
Is it competing with Quickbooks? With NetSuite with SAP Business One? With Money?
Microsoft’s strategy is to approach product development across a customer lifecycle – from the smallest of businesses up to divisions of large organizations. The stage a company is at in its lifecycle determines its business management needs. Microsoft offers a broad range of business solutions that customers can upgrade to as they grow and their businesses or process needs become larger or more complex. In terms of how the new product fits in with current Microsoft offerings, we think of it as the component for smaller companies that completes a full-range set of technology and services developed specifically for organizations of varying sizes.
Microsoft Money is a personal finance software application and not an accounting application. Microsoft Money Small Business is designed for sole proprietors/small home offices who are more likely to want a view of both personal and business finances combined in one application. Microsoft Money Small Business offers easy-to-use tools for invoice management, paying bills and managing business bank accounts, but does not include double-entry accounting. Microsoft Business Solutions’ Small Business Financials North America Edition (formerly known as Small Business Manager) is for businesses with more complex financial management needs that are looking for the support of a certified technology partner to implement and customize their solution. The new Microsoft Office Edition bridges the gap between these two offerings and is designed for 1-25 employees. Targeted at the low end of the small business market, the new Office Edition includes familiar Microsoft Office 2003 Editions, Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting, and Microsoft Office Outlook with Business Contact Manager, that will enable companies to easily manage sales, marketing, and financial processes in a single, integrated suite. This helps companies get a complete view of their business, manage their business finances, build stronger customer relationships, and provide employees with the tools they need to be successful.
Intuit: It is important to keep in mind that the new Microsoft Office Edition is not just an accounting application. It is a complete, easy to use business management solution targeted toward companies with up to 25 employees. We will target approximately 50% of small businesses in the U.S. that do not have any accounting solution today or currently manage their accounting needs using Excel or Access. We will target the same customers as Intuit, but we are approaching them in a different way. We heard they want an integrated solution that combines familiar Microsoft Office programs with complete financial and customer management programs that is not available in the market today. As a result, we will deliver a new Microsoft Office Edition, a complete, easy to use offering that integrates financial and customer management into one solution that will enable small businesses to manage their customers, finances and day-to-day tasks in one place. As part of the new Microsoft Office Edition, Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting will offer customers the ability to migrate master records and beginning balances directly from QuickBooks.
NetSuite: Netsuite is going after a much different target audience. They are targeting customers looking for a complete online offering. Microsoft’s assessment is that the majority of small businesses do not want their mission critical business information solely available via the Web.
SAP Business One: The new Microsoft Office edition targets the lower end of the small business market, so we don’t perceive SAP to be a direct competitor.
Integrated – at the server end or this is only for end users, individual not for a work group setting?
The new Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting, a pivotal component of the new Office Edition will use MSDE, the light and desktop versions of SQL Server for storing information. Businesses that have Windows Small Business Server can choose to have Microsoft Small Business Accounting working with the default MSDE database.