Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Microsoft's much ballyhooed Small Business Accounting program is this--neither a bang nor a whimper.
It's hard to conceive of an application that had such a build up with so little effective follow through from a company is known for its marketing prowess.
SBA simply is not making a dent in the market.
It's certainly not capturing mind share among accountants, no matter how many thousands signed up for the Microsoft Accountants Network or got free copies of Office that contained the Trojan accounting package. I say, Trojan, because for most of them, it remains hidden inside the Microsoft Office Small Business Management Edition that many of them got with SBA inside.
Each month, Accountant Technology publishes a feature called "Street Talk," in which practitioners are asked to respond to questions via email. The May question is "What has your or your clients' experience been with Small Business Accounting?"
The response was worse than I expected. Nobody bashed the product. Most simply said that they haven't had a clients ask about it. A couple were puzzled because they had expected business from SBA users. Two said that Microsoft has flubbed training or made it difficult for consultants to work with the program.
What's the problem? From the first, Microsoft undercut the product by burying the introduction by holding it on the same day as its Mid-market Summit, in which it renamed its mid-marketing accounting software line.
But it is the competitors who have the likely answer. They reason that if Microsoft captured every dollar in this market, there's not enough to make it worth the while of a company with almost $40 billion of revenue in fiscal 2005.
I think that's the reason Microsoft has not thrown the kind of money into the retail effort that would make displays prominent and place more than one or two copies in stores. I also think Microsoft has not invested in the talent necessary to push this product. This is not the company's A team.
Microsoft, I believe, sent this product out figuring that if it catches fire, it can push more money in. But there aren't many signals that SBA has much corporate mind share.
And if it does, somebody is having trouble getting that message across.
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