MICROSOFT UNVEILS SMALL BUSINESS ACCOUNTING: In a push to gain small business clients, Microsoft has released a beta version of its new Office product, code-named Magellan. This would be Microsoft's second edition of its Office suite for small businesses, a market segment on which the company has increasingly focused.

Microsoft plans to introduce the final product in late 2005.

The release will include the existing Office 2003 core set of programs, plus the new Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting. In addition, Microsoft is looking for independent vendors to play a strategic role in building both vertical and horizontal solutions on top of the product.

The software will include an updated version of Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager, a personal information management product. Rajat Taneja, general manager of small business applications, said, "We're targeting small business clients, specifically businesses with about 10 to 20 employees."

Microsoft is also partnering with ADP Small Business Services to offer integrated payroll services. In addition, Microsoft has selected BQE Software Inc., makers of the BillQuick time and billing and project management software, as a Magellan partner.

Pricing for Magellan has not been set.

- Carly Lombardo-Bohach

AXENTIS TAPS SEXTON AS CHAIRMAN, CEO: Axentis, a Cleveland-based provider of governance, risk and compliance software solutions, has named Ken Sexton as chairman and chief executive of the concern.

In his new role, Sexton will be charged with spearheading business strategy and merger and acquisition initiatives.

Sexton had been a member of the Axentis board for the past year. Ted Frank, who co-founded the company in 1999, will relinquish the chief executive post, but remain as president overseeing day-to-day operations.

Prior to coming aboard at Axentis, Sexton served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at enterprise software application vendor Peregrine Systems Inc.

MBS TO OFFER LIFE SCIENCES PLATFORM: In its push to penetrate deeper into vertical niches, Microsoft Corp. announced the soon-to-be-available Microsoft Business Solutions - Axapta 3.0 for Life Sciences.

Scheduled for a January 2005 release, the product is a pre-configured solution designed to simplify regulatory compliance issues within the life sciences industry, including research organizations and manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, as well as biotechnology and medical devices.

The MBS Axapta for Life Sciences platform was developed for the mid-market segment and divisions of large enterprises, and is designed for customization by independent software vendors and Microsoft resellers. It features such functions as electronic documentation for record and signature validation, which adheres to Part 11, a compliance mandate from the Food and Drug Administration. The product will be available in the U.S., the European Union, Canada and Switzerland.

UNIVERSAL AND BNA PARTNER IN RESELLING PACT: Universal Tax Systems, a Rome, Ga.-based tax preparation and e-filing concern, and BNA Software, a provider of tax and fixed asset management software, have finalized an agreement for UTS to resell selected BNA Software products as part of the UTS TaxWise tax preparation software suite.

As part of the arrangement, UTS will sell BNA Software's BNA Income Tax Planner and BNA Fixed Assets to its extensive customer base of CPA firms, enrolled agents and sole practitioners.

BEST ACQUIRES PAYROLL CONCERN: In an effort to bolster its payroll outsourcing services, Best Software acquired Dallas-based Federal Liaison Services, a provider of employer payroll and tax filing solutions, for undisclosed terms.

Prior to the purchase, Best had been an FLS reseller. Founded in 1988, FLS provides software for the compliance, reporting and payment functions. The company's products are either provided as stand-alone software, or as a hosted solution.

As part of the deal, Blake Eaton, principal of FLS, will join Best as general manager of the business unit. Eaton will continue to oversee FLS. Meanwhile, FLS chief executive Fran Bartlett will work with Best on a transitional basis.

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