There was a thoughtful review in the latest issue of Fortune Small Business comparing Office Accounting professional 2007 to Quickbooks Premier 2007.  Jonathan Blum the writer put both products through their paces and test drove them personally over several weeks. We were delighted to read the very positive remarks and the highlighted features of the Microsoft software and services combination. The effort that has gone in, and continues to pour into the development of the solution is pretty significant and it is always great to get this type of first hand feedback from a renowned journalist. In addition, we take seriously the advise that the marketing and outreach to the accounting professional community is lkey for any new product (however great) to win the hearts and mind of the users. We 100% agree with that and have very closely worked with CPAs and book keepers since the very inception of the concept at MS a few years ago.  The features and capabilities for CPAs in Office Accounting are far in advance of any comparable product and we are delighted at the traction the product has gained in the AP community. Every month, we are adding hundreds of new APs to the Microsoft Professional Accounting Program and are thrilled at the feedback and reviews from this important community of users.

Here is the article in its entirety :

Battle of the bean counters

How does Microsoft's new accounting software stack up against the mighty QuickBooks?

By Jonathan Blum, FSB contributor


(FSB Magazine) -- As if there weren't enough tussling in the technology world, two software giants are duking it out over - get this - bean counting. Internet-search giant Google recently cut a deal with Intuit, the 800-pound accounting software gorilla.

Intuit's QuickBooks accounting package now features internal links to Google marketing tools such as Ad-Words and Maps. Not to be out-done, Microsoft fired back with a spanking-new Web-oriented accounting product of its own: Microsoft Office Accounting Professional. This application lives inside the sprawling software megalopolis that is Microsoft Vista and Office 2007.

robots.03.jpg
BOTTOM LINE
QuickBooks Premier: $349.95
The Google partnership adds only a thin overlay of online marketing functionality to Intuit's popular bookkeeping software.
Microsoft Office Accounting Professional: $149
Great features and price, dazzling integration with Office. But will your accountant use it?

"The Intuit deal brings Google right down into the heart of the Microsoft Office turf," says Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research. I enjoy a good Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster techno-slugfest as much as the next fella. But would I - a professional gadget analyst and small-business owner (www.blumsday.com) - actually recommend one accounting package over another?

To find out, I ordered up a reviewer's copy of Quick-Books Premier ($349.95 for one user), Intuit's top-of-the-line accounting package for small businesses, complete with built-in Google Marketing tools. I compared it with Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 ($149 for one user), an extension of Microsoft Office 2007 that comes complete with Web-based marketing services. Some of them are part of the Microsoft Office Live initiative, and others are specific to Microsoft Office Accounting. Confusing, I know, but that's Microsoft (Charts) for you. I put both applications to work in my small shop, where I produce consumer electronics content for radio, print, TV and the Web.

Intuit's (Charts) interface tries to visualize the financial life of your business. The different sectors of your enterprise are represented by icons on a large desktop. You go from one part of your business to another by clicking from one icon to another. Want to know who owes you what? Click on the INVOICES icon in the Customers section. Want to know which employee is working on what? Click on ENTER TIME in Employees. There are links for inventory, accounts, refunds and much more.

It took me a moment to grasp the logic. But half an hour after I set up QuickBooks on my PC, I was running my business on the software. I sold a story and saw my receivables and net cash jump. I paid a bill and saw my payables shrink along with my cash reserves. QuickBooks is sort of the Jay-Z of virtual bean counters, slick and professional - if a bit cold.

But Intuit's ballyhooed Google (Charts) alliance was underwhelming at best. It boiled down to a single icon called MARKETING TOOLS just below the Items and Services link on the main QuickBooks page. Click on it, and you rocket over to a Web page labeled Marketing Tools for QuickBooks. There I found Google Maps, Google's mapping software; AdWords, Google's flagship search-term advertising service and some links to Google Base, Google's mercantile exchange software. The Google page preenters your QuickBooks information, so you save a few clicks in the log-in process. And Quick-Books gives you a $50 credit toward your AdWords account.

The Google tools work. My office now appears on Google Maps. Ad-Words generated 17 visits to my radio show's Web site in two weeks, plus one really weird phone call. But why do I need Intuit? All these Google tools are available free without QuickBooks.

Stiff competition

Like QuickBooks, Microsoft Accounting provides a graphic representation of your business. But instead of Intuit's single large desktop filled with icons, Microsoft divides your shop into sections that run off tabs on the left side of the screen, à la Microsoft Outlook. That's no accident. "We see accounting as a direct outgrowth of the Microsoft Office suite," says Karan Khanna, marketing director for the Microsoft Office Accounting line of products. "We were working for a seamless Outlook and Word 2007 feel."

Tabs labeled COMPANY, EMPLOYEES and vendors lead to other buttons marked CASH FLOW, NEW SALES ORDER and PAYROLL. Those buttons, in turn, lead to the hard data of your business: financial records, cash-flow statements, payroll tax forms and so on. And as with QuickBooks, everything worked. It was a snap to reconcile accounts and enter new clients and employees into the system.

And Microsoft Office Accounting data integrate automatically into the full suite of Microsoft Office products. Complex analytic reports, such as business projections based on receivables and sales leads, can be built on the fly. Microsoft's snazzy Access reporting tools draw data from all the Office applications: Outlook, Word, Excel, the lot. QuickBooks offers similar analytic features, and some are good. But it's tough to beat Microsoft at its own game of cross-application data integration.

I also give Microsoft the edge for overall feel and ease of use, if only because Microsoft Accounting runs better in the sexy new Microsoft Vista environment. QuickBooks also works in Vista, but Intuit's code lacks that intimate connection to Microsoft Office. Features such as word processing and customer-management tools are not as slickly integrated.

If you run an information-based business like mine, you'll love Microsoft Accounting's letter and spreadsheet features. Contact and financial data travel instantly into both Word and Excel documents. Reports, invoices, and pay-me-right-now-sucka letters are a breeze. Sure, I can get QuickBooks to do the same stuff, but it takes more time. And frankly, it's just not as cool.

Now to the Web. Microsoft flatly - and I mean flatly - wins the online-services battle. The gnomes of Redmond have developed a snazzy Web interface called Marketing Services. It includes a direct link to eBay (Charts) that automatically updates your inventory balances. You'll also find online account-status information and even links to PayPal, credit card transactions and other features.

QuickBooks has similar capabilities, if we generously assume that Google's embryonic Base service is competitive with eBay. But Microsoft's Marketing Services environment is leagues ahead of the Marketing Tools for QuickBooks page, which feels as if it were tossed together in a few hours by a heavily caffeinated Google intern.

Microsoft is the clear winner in terms of design, integration, and price - just about every service in Microsoft's package is cheaper than Intuit's. Yet I can't recommend the product. Why? "Intuit is the far-away leader in the one-through-99-person business accounting software category," says Laurie McCabe, vice president for small and medium-sized business at AMI Partners, an international market-research firm based in New York City. "It's very hard to find an accountant who doesn't use the package."

Because accounting software is only as good as the data entered into it, you should have a living accountant review any financial records that you create using QuickBooks, Microsoft Accounting or any other accounting application. And here's the rub: While it is possible to exchange data between Microsoft Office Accounting and QuickBooks, close to 90 percent of all accountants use Intuit software. So why make trouble?

Bottom line: Intuit dominates the accounting software market, and Intuit products work just fine. That leaves Microsoft in the unaccustomed position of the scrappy underdog struggling for traction against an entrenched monopolist with a gigantic installed user base. Ironic, no? But true.

The history of technology is littered with great products that failed because they didn't solve a real problem. So until Microsoft somehow builds a solid base of accountants who know its software backward and forward, stick with QuickBooks. I'll give the last word to my blessed accountant, Mike Block of Block & Block in New York City: "You don't want to pay me a ton of money to undo your software screwup."