Microsoft Sees Big Numbers in Small Business Bookkeeping

Microsoft, the giant among titans, is going after the pencil-and-paper bookkeeping market with the latest accounting program for small business.

Microsoft cites market research that estimates there are 20 million small or home-based businesses where the accounting is tapped out on a calculator and kept on paper, or at best maintained in spreadsheets.

"They have various obstacles to using accounting software, such as the cost or fear of technology,” the company quoted Rajat Taneja, general manager of Microsoft Small Business Applications and Services. “We want to help eliminate those barriers by giving business owners an easy-to-use yet comprehensive solution that can help them be more efficient, manage their customer base and grow their business."

To help those businesses keep better books, Microsoft has released Office Accounting Express 2007. However, software reviewers note that the Redmond, Wash.,-based company is not looking for an edge against ledger tablets, but competing accounting software, mainly Quickbooks and Peachtree. Reviewers like PC Magazine say the upgraded version is an improvement, with features that the competition lacks.

The most notable feature is its connection with eBay and PayPal. Users can create, list, and track items in Office Accounting, and then import sales information. It will also import PayPal sales information. “The feature, facilitated by step-by-step instructions (which make the potentially convoluted process less complex), is best suited for power sellers, but should also prove helpful to anyone who already uses eBay or PayPal. This feature "worked well in my testing,” wrote reviewer Kathy Yakal of PC Magazine. She called the program a “vast improvement” on last year’s inaugural release, saying “It should prove an effective tool for small businesses that don't have large-scale inventory requirements.”

Office Accounting Express 2007 software is on Office Accounting Express 2007software will be available for free, while third-party integrated premium online services are available for additional fees.

For larger companies with greater needs, Microsoft also announced that it will introduce Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007, the successor to Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006. This program includes inventory management, multicurrency invoicing, multiuser access and fixed asset management, the company says. In early 2007, Office Accounting Professional will be available in retail stores for an estimated retail price of $149. Until then, a trial version will be available.

Like the Express version, Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 is geared to work intuitively with the Office suite. Additional features include a business dashboard, a cash flow management tool, purchase and sales orders, job costing, a wider variety of financial reports, and the ability to connect to Microsoft Dynamics(TM) Point-of-Sale.

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