Fiber Optic Internet and New Software Business Models
By Brian Tankersley - I'm in the middle of getting fiber optic internet installed today (through TDS, my phone company - even though I don't have a land line), and am excited about it. I'll post more, as well as some speed tests once I get things set up. Speed on the line is advertised as 25Mbs down, 10Mbps up. Hopefully this will eliminate the occasional flutter in my VOIP conversations.
Intuit recently announced that they have 50,000 ProAdvisors, which is a pretty significant milestone. For comparison, AICPA has 300,000 members - so there's plenty of room for growth - but 50K is going to be far and away the largest in the segment (as you would expect). If you haven't looked at the partner programs from Intuit (ProAdvisor Program ), Sage (Sage Accountants Network ), and Microsoft (Microsoft Professional Accountants Network ) as well. One can join all three for a total about $1,200 per year, and get close to $30K in software.... good stuff, people.
Not to be outdone, Sage and Microsoft have both announced some initiatives through their partner programs which are very innovative. Sage has offered ads on job site Monster.com for SSAN  members, is giving away a free license of Peachtree Complete Accounting (plus six months support) for clients of CPA's switching from Quickbooks (see their site, www.switchmyclients.com  for details), and has a number of innovative offerings to help their members meet the needs of clients, including payroll tax subscriptions and a five user license of Peachtree Quantum for SSAN-Peachtree members. Microsoft's MPAN program  recently announced a co-branding initiative where MPAN members can put links to their own website in copies of Office Accounting and Office Accounting Express for clients , which is pretty interesting. I'll write more about this later, but Microsoft still offers the Microsoft Action Pack to MPAN members in public practice or consulting . This subscription is basically everything Microsoft you would ever use in a 10 person CPA firm for $299 a year. They also are linking to the MPAN Certified Consultant directory from within the software - so if someone has the software and tries out a sample company, they can go to the "Find a Small Business Accountant" page on the Microsoft site, and find an MPAN member to help them (search this database under zip code 37922, and you'll find me as an "MPAN Consultant",  which means that I have passed their certification exam on Office Accounting ). (Side note - take and pass as many of the certification exams as you can - my phone rang yesterday with a potentially very lucrative opportunity because I was on the QuickBooks ProAdvisor site for Enterprise Solutions. I personally billed and collected about $4K off of leads from my ProAdvisor listing last year, with an average rate over $100 per hour, and actually turned away a lot of leads from this source. This would not have been possible without taking and passing the ProAdvisor exams for the standard and enterprise editions of QuickBooks).
On the software subscription vs. purchase front, Microsoft is now selling MS Office Home and Student  on a subscription basis. The new product is called http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jul08/07-02EquiptPR.mspx" >"Equipt", and is bundled with some Windows Live / Office Live services, including Windows Live OneCare and Office Live Workspace. This seems like a great offering for students and others who need MS Office software, but get sticker shock at the initial price of purchasing this software.
It's important to note the following:
- Same EULA  as Home and Student (e.g. use for the student only or the parents when helping students with homework). Accordingly, this is NOT and SHOULD NOT be used in a business environment.
- Software can be installed on up to three PC's.
- Office updates are pushed out automatically, and upgrades during the subscription term are automatic.
Some links for those wanting to know more:
- Microsoft Press Release on Equipt - http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jul08/07-02EquiptPR.mspx 
- ZDNet Coverage of MS Announcement -http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1469 
If you're doubting that software subscriptions are the wave of the future, let me remind you that Intuit announced a restructuring last week which realigns their workforce to focus on subscriptions and online services. From Intuit's press release :
The changes better position the company to deliver on its comprehensive "Connected Services" strategy. The strategy increases Intuit's emphasis on developing value-added services for its desktop products and innovative online offerings. The company plans to focus on both traditional and new markets across the globe, while embracing social networking and mobile technology trends.While I'm a serious technophile, I plan on celebrating the 4th with my family by taking my son and niece to a drive-in movie while they still exist. (There's plenty of time to watch HDTV and surf the internet over fiber later.) Life is, after all, all about relationships, isn't it?Brian Tankersley is a Knoxville, Tennessee based CPA and consultant, and is an Associate with K2 Enterprises. You can read more of Brian's writings either on AccountingWeb.com or at http://blog.bftcpa.com.