Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007, a stripped-down version of the company’s Accounting Professional 2007 software, was downloaded more than one million times in its first three months as a free application.Targeting companies with 25 employees or less, Microsoft released the stripped-down version of its software last October in its latest attempt to become a player in the accounting software space -- targeting businesses that are late adopters and rely on pencil and paper, or Excel, for their bookkeeping needs.

Startups and eBay sellers were among the intended audience and Microsoft bundled a number of third-party services with the free download, some of which -- including payroll process and access to credit reports --- were available for a fee.

Rajat Taneja, general manager of Small Business Applications at Microsoft, said that the number of downloads has far exceeded the company’s initial goals for the year.

“We have been happy with the traction, particularly given that Office Accounting Express was a version 1.0 product in a highly competitive market,” Taneja told WebCPA. “The product garnered great reviews, and nearly 90 percent of the customers who switched over from other products said that they would recommend Office Accounting to others.”

The free Office Accounting Express download is still available at Microsoft’s Web site for the product, www.ideawins.com, which also features a contest to award New York retail space and seed money to a small business plan

Taneja said that while the free download has been effective in generating excitement for the product, whether users are upgrading to the Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 (which retails for $149) still depends on their business needs.

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