Anyone who thought that multiple accounting software product lines, brought together by merger and acquisition activity, would melt away quickly was probably surprised by developments in the last two months.

Microsoft Great Plains carried through with a long-announced plan to introduce light manufacturing and distribution modules for Solomon 1V. Meanwhile, Best Software revealed the direction for Platinum for Windows, acquired last year from Epicor. That direction included attacking the process manufacturing market, releasing source code, along with integrating the recently acquired BatchMaster for PFW.

Other companies continue to have multiple product lines. Accpac has both its Accpac Advantage line and the source code products it acquired with the former SBT. Great Plains has Dynamics, Solomon, and eEnterprise, and before long will add Navision Attain and Axapta (at least one Navision package is likely to survive). Softline has AccountMate and BusinessVision, Active IQ markets Champion and Red Wing. Only Exact (formerly Macola) has shown an immediate plan for integration for Macola’s Progression Series and Exact's eSynergy.

Some products do go away: Great Plains stopped selling RealWorld's Classic Accounting this year and will stop supporting it next year with the same plan applying to Best's Peachtree 2000, the former MICA IV line.

But there is no necessity for dropping a line that is profitable and which can be sold to customers who might not be attracted to a vendor’s other product offerings. Just look at Best--it continues to sell DacEasy to an installed base that shows no signs of going away soon.

However, organizations generally want more out of software than sustaining an installed base. Some of these multiple lines are getting a lot more than maintenance. The moves for Solomon and PFW both go the same direction as both products move from a general accounting orientation to a more vertical focus. The results show. Microsoft reports Solomon has maintained its market share, while Best says that PFW's revenue increased by 40 percent over the last year, while Best increased the staff supporting the product by 25 percent.

No one should be surprised by the endurance of multiple lines. Other industries successfully follow that model. Just look at the major automakers. No one would suggest the General Motors be forced to choose between Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac. Different brands serve different segments of the market. So what shouldn't accounting software vendors continue to field old lines?

As long as one isn't named Edsel.

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