Microsoft Corp. announced that its new accounting software for small businesses will hit retail shelves priced at $179 for a standalone copy, but ship with a $30 mail-in rebate.

Microsoft announced pricing for Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 at its annual business summit in Redmond. The SBA/Office combo (including the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access) will list for $569, or $399 as an upgrade, after a $100 mail-in rebate. ADP Payroll for the program will also be available at $169 per year.

The packages are expected to support up to five users.

The new accounting software is Microsoft's latest bid to take on Intuit's QuickBooks. QuickBooks Basic lists at $199.95, or $99.95 as an upgrade. QuickBooks Pro is about $100 more, but often comes with significant rebates.

"These solutions were built from the ground up to support the ways that small businesses actually work, and to be incredibly easy for employees to implement and use," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, in a statement.

Nearly 4,800 U.S. small businesses took part in the beta testing of Small Business Accounting. Microsoft said that customers and accountants have requested 50,000 trial copies of the software, making it one of the most anticipated Microsoft small business products ever. In response to feedback from accounting professionals and partners since the beta release, Microsoft is including several new features.

Users will be able to save frequently entered transactions and keep them as templates for reuse; manage payroll manually using an integrated Excel solution; back up the company's database to share with an accountant or other consultant; and create profit-and-loss statements by class or business segment.

Microsoft also announced a number of new relationships with leading distributors and retailers.

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