Microsoft Polishes Small Business Accounting Tool

The new software, aimed at Intuit and QuickBooks, interacts with applications, enabling online payroll processing.

Accounting hasnt changed in thousands of years—whats really different is how accounting software interacts with the applications around it. Thats the message of Microsoft Corp.s new Small Business Accounting package, announced Wednesday at the companys first-ever Business Summit in Redmond, Wash.

Microsofts new Small Business Accounting suite is a remake of its accounting software for small businesses, with a focus on borrowing capabilities from Windows and Office and providing services through integration with partners. For example, through a partnership with Automatic Data Processing Inc. users can process payroll online with ADP.

"[Services] will make it easy for companies to connect with customers … or connect up and continue the business they do with ADP," said Microsoft founder and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, during a Small Business Accounting presentation.

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The new software, aimed at the Intuit and QuickBooks crowd of users—companies with 15 employees or fewer—is designed to be simpler to use than its predecessor, but with more complex capabilities. For example, the software uses an XML format and a Web services protocol to enable remote access to the applications.

"It actually lets professionals get in right away without having to come on premises and print things out," said Gates.

The Small Business Accounting package has been in beta for "a significant amount of time," according to Gates, and for good reason. The company has tried in the past to reach the small-business market with accounting software but found little success when compared with off-the-shelf packages like QuickBooks.

Small Business Accounting is currently adapted for the U.S. market, but with the help of partners Microsoft plans to build out to other geographies. At the same time, more than 300 ISVs (independent service providers) are working on building out vertical capabilities for Small Business Accounting, using Microsofts software development kit. The company estimates about 75 new solutions will be available in the near future.

Small Business Accounting will be available as a stand-alone package for about $179 (not counting a $30 rebate) or bundled with Office for about $569 for new users and $399 as an Office upgrade.

Carrying the bundled approach one step further, the software can be preinstalled on some Dell and Gateway laptops.

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