Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Microsoft is cooking up a new version of its Office productivity package in a bid to unseat Intuit as the king of small-business accounting software.
The new Office product, code-named Magellan, features more sophisticated business accounting and contact management applications than the standard version. Microsoft plans to release a beta version of the product on Monday for testing and expects to fully introduce the final product in about one year.
Magellan will be Microsoft's second edition of its Office suite for small businesses, a market segment the company has increasingly focused on. Last year, the company launched Office Small Business Edition 2003 for $449, and it plans to continue selling it alongside the newer product, a Microsoft representative said.
The company has not yet set a price for Magellan.
Microsoft is loading up Magellan with more advanced features, including an accounting package developed by Microsoft Business Solutions, which builds business-efficiency applications. Magellen also will feature a contact manager, a component of the company's Outlook e-mail program that keeps detailed information about customer accounts.
In a push to gain small-business customers, Microsoft reshuffled some executives last year, reassigning its worldwide head of sales, Orlando Ayala, to oversee that effort. The company also has introduced a small-business version of its Windows server operating systems bundled with its Exchange e-mail server program.
Although Microsoft named its latest small-business initiative after the first European explorer to sail the Pacific Ocean, the company is hardly sailing in new waters. Intuit has the lead in that market with its QuickBooks accounting software. The company recently updated the product with the aim of displacing Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program as a small-business bookkeeping tool.