Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Intuit v. Microsoft The Fight Has Begun!!!

With the official launch of Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting 2006 on September 7th 2005 the stage has been set for an all out battle for the lucrative small business market for accounting software programs. On one side there is Intuit’s QuickBooks software lines that include Simple Start, Pro, Premier, and Enterprise Solutions 2006 and on the other the new Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2006 product. Both products offer small businesses, accountants and software developers a wide array of functions and features, but there are some limitations to each product. Among those are the ability to work with other software titles, and the functionality of the modules within each. In the October issue of the NSA Technology Advisor ( www.NSATechAdvisor.com ), there is a detailed analysis of each software offering and the strengths and limitations of both. One thing to keep in mind when comparing these two software offerings is to understand what each company is offering the end user, the key features of each software and how they relate to your business operations, if any third part software can be seamlessly integrated into the software and understanding the limitations of each software in regards to your business operations.

Small business owners will be happy to know that with the addition of MS SBA there is greater variety within the small business accounting market. Both QB 2006 and MS SBA 2006 are priced competitively and there are versions to fit any size business and budget. Both products have robust features, however each falls short in the inventory, and job costing area. Both products offer free trials (http://accountant.intuit.com and http://www.microsoft.com/accountants ).

The products differ in that MS SBA 2006 is written in the industry standard .NET language which provides Microsoft and edge for additional development inside the company (MS Office and other products) and outside the company (SDK Software Developers Kits). QuickBooks 2006 is written in a different code that has been around for quite some time which makes it difficult to develop additional products. Microsoft may have a long term advantage in this area if the strategy is to build loyalty thru the use of ancillary desktop applications that work with MS SBA.

I have been privileged to take a view of the new MS SBA 2006 product earlier this year and found it to be rather user friendly and easy to navigate. The screens are set up similar to other Microsoft offerings, thus it is familiar to new users. I did find it lacking in the reporting area, whereas QuickBooks offers more reports for the user. All in all it is a sound product that can only grow with the addition of more products that will seamlessly integrate into the .NET program. I would like to see a conversion built that will convert QuickBooks data to MS SBA 2006, for that would make it easier for new users to convert data.

Both companies must play close attention to the needs of accountants, small business owners and developers for each have a different need respectively. Whereas accountants want better accurate reporting and an audit trail, small business owners want something that is easy to use and learn. This is a difficult task for both companies and I look forward to see how each addresses the needs of both.

Brian N. Stovall
Consultant – Accounting Business Advisory
The Brico Group, Inc.
www.thebricogroup.com
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