During Sage Software's annual Insights partner conference, resellers such as Kevin Stanton, manager of marketing communications at Winn Technology Group, were especially interested in all the new offerings that the company is poised to launch this year."Lots of things have piqued our interest," said Stanton during the three-day confab, held here. "The most interesting was the broader range of services to partners through all the acquisitions and releases. It's always good to have more options [for customers]."

Many of the new strategies and products were designed in order to bolster Sage's current offerings.

Sage chief executive officer Ron Verni announced during his keynote the acquisitions of construction software application Master Builder, from QuickBooks parent Intuit, and contracting applications provider Contract Anywhere Inc., of Savannah, Ga.

Verni joked during his keynote speech that the Intuit product was causing some competition for Sage's Timberline offerings, "so, like we always do, we decided to buy it."

The CEO also said that the new product would fill a gap, as will Contract Anywhere's four contracting products: General, Specialty, Service and Residential Contracting.

"It's a great product," said Intuit spokeswoman Holly Anderson of Master Builder. "It was doing well. For Intuit, though, we decided to concentrate on our construction vertical within our QuickBooks offerings."

The terms of the acquisitions were not revealed.

Another new product filling a gap is Sage's Peachtree Quantum. The new Peachtree solution accommodates up to 10 users (twice as many as current Peachtree products), has an interactive dashboard with role-based views, and can export budgets and other reports to Excel. Verni said that Quantum will patch up the hole left in Sage offerings when a customer has outgrown Peachtree but is not ready to move on to more mid-market solutions like MAS or Timberline.

Other new products this year include Sage Accpac ERP 5.4, an accounting package that will launch this summer; Sage TimeSheet, the MAS 90 Edition, which can be purchased this July; and Sage FAS, a fixed-asset management system, which will also be available this summer.

For Lorrie Harris, vice president of sales at MicroAccounting Solutions, a reseller of Sage products with a concentration in the MAS product line, the most exciting news at Insights was not the new products, but the integration being strengthened among existing products.

"The biggest thing for us is the integration of the products, so when we are showing the products, they can be seen as one end-to-end solution," said Harris. "They are doing better with the branding too; even with just the renaming [of the products], it has helped a little with prospective customers."

Over the past 12 months, Sage has worked to transform its former nomenclature of Best Software to Sage Software - the brand of its U.K.-based parent, Sage plc. Last spring, Sage began aggressively rebranding its products as well. As an example of this strategy, Accpac has become Sage Accpac ERP.

Meanwhile, at an executive question-and-answer breakfast session during the Insights meeting, more than 60 percent of attendees indicated via vote that they had seen "some improvement" with brand recognition, while roughly 17 percent claimed that they had seen a "big improvement." Meanwhile, about 6 percent had seen no improvement at all.

Another key development announced at Insights 2006 was a new Fast Track for Consultants program for resellers to find, recruit, train and hire new consultants. The program costs $5,000 and has no restriction on partner size, said Sage executive vice president for channel and sales operations Taylor Macdonald.

"We're very excited about the new program," said Harris of MicroAccounting Solutions. "It's hard to find quality consultants. And having a training program for them is huge!"

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