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Microsoft's Revamped Finance Suite Touts Integration

Microsoft on Thursday lifted the veil off the newest version of its Small Business Manager accounting software, touting slicker integration to its bCentral Web services platform and applications with Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Small Business 7.0, a general accounting software package for companies with 50 employees or fewer, features newfangled, integrated modules that allow customers to manage operations like financial, banking, inventory, sales, purchasing and U.S. payroll.

But the biggest new feature is the addition of modules that allow interoperability with Microsoft Office applications and the bCentral Web services for small businesses platform.

The Small Business 7.0 upgrade, which came as part of the Great Plains acquisition and is being hawked to companies that need a little more than basic bookkeeping software, adds jazzed-up features for sales and purchasing. By tying the new software with inventory functionality, Microsoft said the new suite would shuttle integrated quotes, sales orders, invoices, statements and payments that let small businesses manage the complete customer life cycle.

Small Business Manager 7.0 also boasts integrated purchase orders, item receipts and payment processes and inventory control features that let small businesses figure out cost methods and assign multiple price levels to an item.

A key addition is the integration interface which allows users to import records and transactions with a wizard-based tool and to export data and reports to MS Excel, MS Word and other applications within Office.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said it would not market the modules separately. Instead, the accounting suite priced at $995 for a single-user copy and $2495 for a multi-user (up to five concurrent) package, will come as a single product that bundles all the accounting tools.

However, Microsoft will not bundle the U.S. Payroll module, which is sold separately at $500 for both single or multi-users.

Microsoft said the Small Business Manager 7.0 suit would not be sold directly but instead would only be available through reseller partners. It would allow existing Small Business Manager users to upgrade to the new version only if they subscribe to its $275-per-year foundation services plan.

Microsoft has attacked the enterprise resource planning (ERP) mid-market with a vengeance since the $1.1 billion all-stock acquisition of Great Plains which marked the company's first foray into a new

That deal essentially gave Microsoft a huge presence in the ERP market for SMBs in a short time, creating a new business solutions division, with 3,600 employees and strength in both the U.S. and European markets.

Microsoft is also preparing the large scale rollout of its customer relationship management (CRM) product targeting mid-market enterprises.