Until this week, most people would probably say that Sage Software had the most confusing name change in the history of mid-market accounting. Microsoft has decided to give Sage a run for its money.All of this makes sense from the corporations' points of view. But pity the poor resellers trying to sell software and the end users who are trying to separate out competing claims.

Sage, you may remember, got on the name change road in 2000 by buying what was then Best Software and the former State of the Art. Together, they became Sage Software, until the company lost the rights to the name in this country. The aggregated company became Best Software, until Sage this year was able to settle with the company that had beaten it in court. So now we are back to Sage Software.

More recently, Sage turned Accpac Advantage and Accpac ProSeries into Sage Accpac ERP and Sage Pro ERP. ERP is like "business ecosystem." There should be a fine imposed every time the phrase is used. Otherwise, the names are pretty good and Pro Series resellers are happy to be distanced from Accpac.

This week, Microsoft has announced its decision to rename its "Project Green," its next generation software project that has been wandering in the R&D desert.

The company acquired Great Plains, which had just purchased Solomon, in 2001, and went on to buy Navision, which also owned Axapta, giving the company four general ledger lines.

The Great Plains software line had been divided into Dynamics and eEnterprise, and, after the bloom fell off the e-rose, the products were re-united as the Great Plains Edition in 2003. Last year, that was split into Great Plains Standard and Great Plains Professional, which the company spent thousands of dollars promoting in June with our Killer VAR supplement.

And now the new name is--drum roll for those who don't know--Microsoft Dynamics, apparently meaning the final end of the Great Plains name.

The products become Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, Dynamics Nav, and Dynamics AX, as the products soon to be formerly known as Great Plains, Solomon, Navision, and Axapta mutate over the next year, along with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. At least the resellers who left the name Dynamics on their Web sites don't have to change things.

My first reaction is that Microsoft just handed Sage a stick to beat its resellers with for the next two or three years. As one MAS 90 reseller said, "Can you imagine someone investing in Axapta and trying to explain that the new name is the same product?"

I'm sure every company that changes names can trot out the reasons why it needs to establish a brand or identity. But a thought occurs to me--I thought the idea was to make life easier for the customer. I thought that was what business is about.

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