Microsoft has found itself a new distribution channel for its Windows and Office XP products, announcing a new partnership with accounting software firm Quicken.
Unlike your typical bundling deal, Microsoft and Quicken have integrated their products together into a small business solution tailor-made to be re-sold by Quicken's 5000-strong group of professional partners, that is, accountants and tax advisers.
These partners will each be given free copies of an integrated solution comprising of Windows XP, Office XP and Quicken's QuickBooks. They in turn will be able to re-sell the solution to their small business customers and receive the same margins that a retailer would by selling standalone versions of the products.
The integration work on the Microsoft and Quicken products, demonstrated at the Sydney launch of the small business solution, is comprehensive and likely to result in improved productivity for accountants and small businesses. "The products are so well integrated, it feels like one product," boasted Greg Wilkinson, chief executive officer of Quicken Australia.
The integration basically means that Quicken users can access Outlook for correspondence with customers, Word for mail merging and Excel for deeper accounting calculations all from within the Quicken graphical user interface.
The solution will be sold on a rental basis, ensuring that both Quicken's professional partners and their customers are all using the same version of the software. This also enables the professional partners to manage some of their customers accounting needs from a remote location. For a yearly subscription, the rental for Quicken is around $240 and XP rental is around $299.
Microsoft Australia managing director Paul Houghton said traditional resellers and retailers will initially not be able to sell the integrated small business solution, and can only continue selling standalone Microsoft and Quicken products. He said there are many plans in the works for extending such small business packages that may involve these distribution channels - such as bundling such software solutions with hardware manufactured by the likes of Compaq or Dell or other Microsoft partners. At present however, the vendor is more focused on striking up relationships with verticals like accounting, and plans to work with other verticals such as the legal profession.
"Most of the time, when a small business customer is looking at buying software, the accountant is their trusted adviser anyway," said Wilkinson. "Over 90 per cent of customers who buy off a retail shelf already know what they are going to buy before they go into the store - more often than not their accountant told them."