When Sage Ltd. organized its customer relationship management business on a global basis last fall, it broke with one of its long-standing strategies.

Sage, the English parent of Sage Software, usually acquires accounting applications in individual countries. So it has products in France, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Spain, and yes the United States, that rarely cross borders. The reasoning is that since accounting regulations are largely enacted on country-by-country basis marketing software that way is smart.

But an increasingly amount of business is done globally. Come to think of it--accounting standards are moving towards a global basis.

On the other hand, arch-rival Microsoft Business Solutions has two global packages--Dynamics AX and NAV, once called Axapta and Navision respectively; one that has some overseas penetration, Dynamics SL, the former Solomon; and one that has very little international presence, Dynamics GP, Great Plains, the product that once had the Dynamics name to itself.

The products with the buzz have been AX and NAV and more than one person has said that anyone they've met who is associated with writing the software engine to tie the four lines together is Danish. Of course, Axapta and Navision were from the land of Hamlet.

One Sage reseller, who handles the MAS line, said recently he increasingly goes up against AX and often beats it, except when multi-currency and multi-lingual features are required. Sage may argue that MAS 500 has international features, but I don't think that this reseller believes that it's truly an international program.

However, Sage does have a true international product--Accpac ERP, the former Accpac Advantage, which was marketed around the world before its parent's purchase by Sage.

Coincidentally, George Riviere, vice president of development at Sage Software, has announced he is retiring in September, after 23 years with the MAS 90 line that he fathered and it seems like a politically opportune time to move towards a more global strategy with accounting applications. Unless someone has some development wizardry, this probably means with something other than the MAS line.

I don't see a strong future for MAS 90/200 and MAS 500, which has done very well in the last two years, is a product with the MAS name, but a completely different architecture. And this is in the same way, I don't see a strong worldwide future for GP; although it will continue to do nicely, pigeonholed in the U.S.

But MBS is already spanning the globe with financial apps. Sage must do something to meet that challenge and Accpac ERP looks like the best bet.

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