The Lack of Power of One

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It seems like a good idea-provide products with a common code base and deep integration.

Yet, both Microsoft and Sage Software are taking steps away from the concept of unifying their product lines, at least not in the sense that the two companies started with.

Take Microsoft. Despite the fact that one PC magazine interpreted remarks by Kirill Tatarinov, the new head of Microsoft Business Solutions, as stating the company would move toward one code base for its four accounting packages, that just isn't the case.

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Either that, or Tatarinov misspoke when he said early in October that Project Green (the project to unify the code base) was dead and that Microsoft hadn't been clear and that it would be when he spoke on the subject at Convergence EMEA, the company's European user conference.

Tatarinov wasn't as definite in his remarks in Europe as he was in Fargo, N.D. His speech got a bit murky about converging on the Microsoft platform, which he said in October meant things like the Office interface and the use of SharePoint.

But I think he still means, there will not be one accounting code underlying Dynamics AX, GP, NAV and SL

Similarly, Sage Software appears to be backing off its plans for integrating its diverse line. At least, it seems to be scaling that back. That's how I read its decision not to replace Jim Foster, who left the company in October with three other top executives, after a roughly five-month stint as the company's first, and likely only, chief technology officer.

Sage actually made a smart decision, which was to call part of its products strategic and part value, which would not get the same R&D money, although it gives the appearance of upgrading the value products since then as rapidly as it's upgrading the strategic products.

In either case, the effort to combine the products for these two companies just isn't worth the spending. They can always just provide minimal effort to products they don't want to pursue-Sage has done that with DacEasy for more than a decade and the product just won't die.

Tatarinov and Mogens Elberg, the GM for the Dynamics NAV line, nodded in October when I made the comment that the main thing a unified "Project Green" would have done for Microsoft is leave it with five GL products on the market. Well, I thought they nodded. But for the moment, Tatarinov said Microsoft is committed to the four existing GLs. And there's no talk of a 2013 end date.

On the Sage side, Sage should stay the course on its strategic/value division. That means products stay on the market as long as users want them. However, it has another option open, which is keeping users of the MAS line happy while turning Accpac into its product of choice. Accpac is more scalable and has the multilingual, multi-currency features MAS lacks. So why reinvent the wheel in the MAS line?

One is not necessarily more powerful. It's also the loneliest number.

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Editor Robert Scott also writes "Consulting Insights," a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It's insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com

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