IT SPENDING TO GROW BY 4 PERCENT IN 2004: Information technology spending in the United States will remain flat for all of 2003, compared to 2002, but will grow by 4 percent in 2004, reports International Data Corp.

The Framingham, Mass.-based technology industry watchers say that “tepid” growth in 2003 software sales and services will be offset by declines in hardware sales, largely related to price competition. However, it also said that economic indicators point in “a broadly positive direction” for 2004 IT sales.

Worldwide IT spending is expected to increase by 1 percent this year and surpass $872 billion, according to the most recent update to IDC’s Worldwide Black Book.

MICROSOFT TO SCRAP STOCK OPTIONS IN SEPTEMBER: Software giant Microsoft Corp. is scrapping the use of stock options in its employee compensation program in favor of offering actual shares.

Beginning in September, Microsoft will grant employees “stock awards,” rather than allowing staff to purchase stocks in the future at a fixed price - a practice that made many employees millionaires in the boom years of the 1990s.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer said that the change would help the company attract and retain the best employees, and better align their interests with those of shareholders. “Our compensation philosophy is simple: We want to be a magnet for the best people by paying smarter,” he said in a statement.

“A significant portion of stock-based compensation for more than 600 of Microsoft’s senior leaders will depend on growth in the number and satisfaction of Microsoft customers,” the company further said.

EPICOR BUYS WAREHOUSE PRODUCT: The developer of “e by Epicor” enterprise software has acquired a suite of warehouse management solutions from TDC Solutions, which it had been private-label marketing as the e Warehouse Data Collection Suite, eWarehouse Management and Fulfillment Suite.

The company expects to enhance its position in the distribution industry. “The acquisition of these solutions is a logical step for Epicor, as we continue to increase our focus on key vertical markets,” said James Norwood, senior director of product marketing.

ACCPAC INTERNATIONAL NAMES PRESIDENT’S CLUB: The accounting/enterprise software vendor has named the following resellers to its President’s Club of “top achievers:” Acclaim Business Solutions, of St. Kilda, Australia; Advanced Computer Software, of Newbury Park, Calif.; BDO Business Technology Solutions, in Toronto; BKD Associates, of Portland, Ore.; Despatie & Associates, of Ottawa, Ont.; Dynamic Software, in Miami; Frontline Systems, in Deephaven, Minn.; Net@Work, in New York; Vintage Business Solutions, of Pleasanton, Calif.; Actran Systems, in Bangkok, Thailand; Allegro Automation, of Towson, Md.; Custom Software, in Westlake, Ohio; Footprint Accounting & Systems, of Manchester, Mo.; Gestisoft, in Montreal; Laura Marino Welsch Consultant & Trainer, of Irvine, Calif.; Plus International, in Woodinville, Wash.; Pyramid Consulting, of Hempstead, N.Y.; Spectrum Computer Concepts, in Huntington Beach, Calif.; and SystemLink UK, in Romford, England.

AICPA TOOLS ONLINE AT CHECKPOINT: Tax research and compliance vendor RIA is making the American Institute of CPAs’ professional library available on its Net-based tax research platform, Checkpoint.

Checkpoint users now have access to the AICPA’s Professional Standards, Technical Practice Aids, Audit and Accounting Guides, and Audit Risk Alerts. RIA, whose other products include Tax Alerts and desktop and remote server editions of GoSystem Tax and E-Forms, is a Thomson business.

“With the addition of the AICPA’s valuable, well-respected resources, we now have the most comprehensive and complete source for accounting and auditing information,” said Mark Schlageter, general manager of RIA Information/Online. RIA’s other Checkpoint partners are the Financial Accounting Standards Board and software developers Comtax BNA and Practitioners Publishing Co., another Thomson business.

- Compiled by John M. Covaleski

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