Microsoft is formally backing away from the small business accounting market after announcing that the Office Accounting program will no longer be distributed after November 16, 2009. In addition, the Microsoft Professional Accountant's Network (MPAN) will no longer accept new members as of that date. You may recall that Microsoft also recently announced that its personal finance application Microsoft Money is also being discontinued. According to a Microsoft Web site posting",We have determined that existing free templates within Office used with Excel was a better option for small businesses, and the Microsoft Dynamics ERP products were appropriate for mid-range organizations."
Microsoft first released Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 in an effort to go head-to-head with QuickBooks. The following year the program was renamed Microsoft Office 2007, and expanded to a free Express version and a paid Professional version. The 2008 version included free Express and pad Professional upgrades, while Office Accounting 2009 upgrades were free for all users.
Microsoft initially put a significant effort behind the product launch, including giving Office Accounting away for free to accountants, as well as free continuing professional education hours and Office Accounting certification. Further, Office Accounting introduced several ground breaking features that in some cases have yet to be matched by QuickBooks or Peachtree:
- Office Accounting offered direct integration with eBay, making it easy for small businesses to post items in inventory to the online marketplace.
- Office Accounting 2008 was available in a bilingual version that allowed users to toggle between English and Spanish.
- Office Accounting 2008 was also available in a United Kingdom version, which marked Microsoft's assault on the dominant market share held by Sage in England.
- Office Accounting allowed users to order Equifax credit reports on customers from within the software.
- Office Accounting's payroll functionality was powered by ADP.
- The program integrated with Microsoft Dynamics Point of Sale, in an effort to support retail operations. Of course, QuickBooks has long had a point of sale presence, too, but Peachtree doesn't offer a similar solution.
- The application used a "lite" version of Microsoft's venerable SQL Server database, and the application could be upsized to full SQL Server if necessary.
- Office Accounting was bundled free with several versions of Microsoft Office 2007.
- Microsoft's Business Contact Manager allowed users to integrate Office Accounting with an entry-level customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Microsoft pledges to offer five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support, but this could be outsourced to third-parties. Specifically, Microsoft transferred UK support for Office Accounting to Mamut Software, Ltd., as of October 30, 2009. All UK Office Accounting users are being offered a free upgrade to Mamut Business Software. As of yet, there's no word on whether U.S. Office Accounting support will be outsourced or not. The resource Web site www.oatraining.com is no longer available, although the primary Office Accounting site, www.ideawins.com, remains active. More information is available in the Office Accounting Discontinuation FAQs.
Keep in mind that QuickBooks 2007 and later offers an option to convert Small Business Accounting or Office Accounting data files. Peachtree Accounting does not offer an automated mechanism for importing Office Accounting data.