And then there were three -- three major tax software companies, that is. With CCH taking over the operations of ATX and TaxWise, there are very few tax preparation software companies left that are not owned by billion-dollar corporations. The remainder are Drake Software, Greatland, Orrtax, Petz Enterprises, and TaxSimple. Everybody else of consequence is owned by CCH, Thomson (Creative Solutions and GoSystem), and Intuit (Lacerte and ProSeries. If anyone is interested in nostalgia, there's a long litany names that have vanished over the last 15 years, and many of them over the last five. But nostalgia doesn't help to run a business, and the question is what this last rush of consolidation means to preparers. It probably means that the large vendors have greater control over pricing, which is where the battle is increasingly taken place, since most vendors had loaded up on features that make a difference. This doesn't necessarily mean higher pricing, because CCH, which was at the high-end of the market with ProSystem fx Tax, is likely to put pressure on Intuit at the low end. But it means the vendors have more flexibility. Suites, or at least one-stop shops, will get greater impetus. CCH has already expressed its intention to bring other accounting firm applications into the ATX and TaxWise offerings. And Internet-based computing will spread. The larger companies have an advantage in being able to develop Web-based platforms, and a big interest in cutting cost by trying to get out of the business of shipping CDs. They have a lot to gain on the cost-cutting and delivery side, and as they integrate their other applications with document management systems, the Web is a natural place to move.
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