It was just over 20 years ago when Wendy's used the tag line "Where's the beef?" to promote its hamburgers.

That should remind us to look for something more meaty from Microsoft and its Small Business Accounting software. We haven't found it.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the product, which has drawn praise from the reviewers and many accountants. It has to do with just how serious Microsoft is about this segment of the software market, coupled with Intuit's dominance.

At times, Microsoft hasn't looked all that interested in its new product. After a year-long build up, it launched SBA in September, but buried the debut by introducing the sweeping name change of its mid-market accounting line the same day. Microsoft representatives insisted that they got plenty of press coverage. I don't think they got what they could have.

Beyond that, you would expect that Microsoft would be putting its full marketing muscle behind the product. It doesn't look that way.

Granted the company has said it expects much of the volume will be through those businesses who opt to get SBA as part of the Office suite. But I would still expect to have seen more noise at retail, especially at year's end.

When you walk into places like Staples and CompUsa as tax season looms, you see pyramids of TurboTax and TaxCut boxes. The sale of accounting software is not so highly seasonal, but I still would have expected to see SBA boxes piled high to gain name recognition.

You can buy that kind of floor space, although one competing vendor says that when products don't sell, they get shoved aside even when there's a lot of money behind a launch--even when they are from Microsoft. By comparison, there is no shortage of Office packages at any of these stores.

At most retail stores, it's easy to find four to six facings of Peachtree--facings are the number of boxes that line a shelf, regardless of how deep they are--20 to 30 flavors of QuickBooks, and one copy of SBA, maybe two at the most.

Similarly, the effort to promote the accountants, who have reportedly signed up by the thousands as part of the Microsoft Accountants Network, could be noisier. If I were running a major product launch, I'd make sure the trade press had a list of top accountants who are supporting the product. But Microsoft has yet to volunteer a single name. You have to ask for them or stumble across them.

Maybe it's just a matter of asking, "Where's the beef?"

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