Microsoft Business Solutions is giving its struggling Small Business Manager software a new name, price promotions and increased marketing to give it a better foothold in the market.

Since SBM was launched more than two-and-a-half years ago, Microsoft has been looking for a formula to boost sales of the product. It has now  been renamed Microsoft Business Solutions Small Business Financials North American Edition. Suited for businesses with 10 to 49 employees, SBF is designed to enable small businesses to grow into the company's Great Plains Standard and Professional editions. It will also serve as a bridge from the lower-end Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting package, which is scheduled to be released in the fourth quarter, says Jeff Young, general manager at Microsoft Great Plains.

"There is an ability to upgrade seamlessly from Small Business Financials to both the Standard and Professional editions," he says.

The company also appears to be clarifying the product's position, with Young pitting SBF against Intuit's QuickBooks Enterprise Suite and Peachtree Premium Accounting. Intuit has been selling about 8,000 units of QES a year, compared with the 2,030 installations sold by more than 1,400 MBS resellers authorized to handle SBM.

Pricing will remain the same, although a price promotion for two-, three- and four-user bundles will be in effect through June.

Microsoft will sell SBF through distributor CDW. However, Young emphasizes that neither SBS nor the mid-market accounting products are being placed under Microsoft's volume licensing program. They will continue to be sold through authorized resellers. Using CDW will help Microsoft give SBF a bigger push, Young says. "We haven't backed up the product with marketing the way we are going to now." Microsoft also listened to reseller requests for a program that was simpler to use. The product also will have the Microsoft Office interface, the ability to import opening balances, and better report access.

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