Redmond, Wash. - Officials at Microsoft said that independent software vendors would play a key role in the planned fall launch of its Office Small Business Management Edition.

"The reason we continue to grow is because of our ISVs," said Mark Young, developer and general manager of ISV strategy at Microsoft, during a day-long ISV forum titled "Opportunity Knocks." "We understand the power of ISVs."

To help ISVs promote and integrate with Microsoft's new application, Dave O'Hara, vice president of business development at the technology giant, set out a roster of six resources available for Microsoft ISVs: free product testing, in-the-box promotion, online catalog inclusion, development support, marketing support and customizable marketing templates

Another feature for independent software vendors is the software development kit, available now, to encourage and assist them to integrate their existing products and create new ones within the Small Business Accounting software. In addition, the SDK will help them set the language from C# to whatever code they prefer.

"The thing I love about SBA," said Young, "is every map is open. Every vertical to horizontal is open and an opportunity."

However, one of the maps that remains closed, Young said, was security - set at base level for heightened security.

"The security was built in at a database layer - far more secure than at any application layer," said Rajat Taneja, general manager of small business applications at Microsoft Business Solutions.

Taneja added that customers would find not only advanced security and a brand-new accounting system, but also an enhanced Outlook 2003 integrated with Business Contact Manager. The Outlook with the contact manager will provide a richer sales and marketing experience by offering such tools as a viewable history of tasks for each client, reporting capabilities, and contact information for all those working with or on a specific account.

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