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Microsoft stuffs Sage with free accounts software

Trying to get into SMBs' good books

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Microsoft today blew a raspberry in the face of rival Sage with the launch of its own UK accounting software punted at SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses).

Redmond has also adopted a biz model not typically associated with the software King Kong, with a basic version of its Office Accounting 2008 product being made available for free download from today.

Of course, it's not just Microsoft helping the little guy get his books in order. It's also a clever marketing ploy to entice new start-ups to grow their accounting needs with Microsoft and lure them away from the likes of rival Sage.

Another surprise is that the Express edition can be installed independently of Office.

Any business wanting to use the full range of features on the new software would need to upgrade from the Express edition or buy the Professional version, which comes with a £149.95 price tag.

As part of the firm's aggressive marketing campaign, a free two-month trial of the enhanced version is also currently on offer.

Speaking at the software's launch event in London this morning, Microsoft SMB apps and services general manager Rajat Taneja said the firm was tapping into a lucrative, growing market.

He reckoned many SMBs typically plump for Excel or a pen and paper to do their accounts, neither of which was adequate for the modern business world where everyone wants to chatter on social [cough] networking sites.

The logic, he argued, was to lump everything together, build an accounts system that works with Office apps, alongside a Web 2.0-shaped community network, and hey presto: Microsoft has a whole new market to exploit explore.

According to Taneja the software has already been going down a storm Stateside, where two million downloads of the Express version have been notched up since its launch in October 2006. He said the software giant had helped "double the market in the US."

Microsoft said that a retail version of Office Accounting 2008 will be available early next year. ®

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