I disagree with Mr. Robert Scott’s recent editorial, “Choking Off Microsoft,” in your August 2002 edition. If Mr. Scott decides to underestimate Microsoft, perhaps he should recall other historical battles over its acquired technology. Briefly, these battles come to mind: IBM (Windows over Presentation Manager), Apple (Windows over Mac OS), Lotus (Excel over 1-2-3), Novell (Word and NT over Word Perfect and NetWare), Sybase and Informix (MS SQL over their products), Ashton-Tate (Access over dBase), and the list goes on.
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Mr. Scott’s comments about Sage/Best remind me of the cliche of shooting guns in the fort to make the Indians think someone’s there. They are overmatched and going to be defeated; it’s just a matter of time. The main issue I take exception with is the concept of a feeder. The underlying assumption is what? Data conversion? Brand loyalty? Services? Data conversion is a non-issue. Microsoft has already acquired sophisticated conversion capabilities from Solomon, Great Plains, and Navision. And Microsoft’s own database product (SQL Server) has become the industry standard for accounting software, so you do the math.
Second, brand loyalty has not proven to be a factor. Intuit, the strongest brand by far of all the companies Scott mentions, does not have an upgrade path. Historically, none of the mid-range and large companies—Computer Associates, Epicor, Great Plains, Navision, Solomon, SAP, Oracle, etc.—ever succeeded with feeder products, but (still have) been very successful. (Oracle is currently experimenting with the NetLedger “feeder” and again has not been successful, but their high-end sales are still doing well.) And even if brand loyalty is an issue, please don’t make me compare branding capability between Microsoft and accounting software manufacturers—that isn’t a fair fight.
Third, services: Growing companies which seek to move to the next level rarely, if ever, have the same financial management needs, staff, reporting requirements, etc. they had when they used an entry-level application. Likewise, their new advisors and staff, which may now include a CFO, often position themselves as more sophisticated and capable then their predecessors. Both CFOs and advisor firms often position themselves with larger systems to build the perception of “when you grow—you’ll need us.”
Competing with Microsoft isn’t dangerous, it’s self-delusional. The industry would be better served if Sage/Best and others would concentrate on adding value to niches in which Microsoft is not interested.
Ethan Dunham, President