Microsoft upgrades Small Business Manager

Microsoft upgrades Small Business Manager

Microsoft has announced an upgrade to its Small Business Manager software, adding a host of features and introducing flexible pricing.

Small Business Manager 7.5 is the next version up from Small Business Manager 7.0, which was introduced in December last year. The product, first released in November 2001, is aimed at businesses that have outgrown off-the-shelf software packages, but with under $US5 million in revenue and no more than 25 employees.

"We're on a pretty aggressive product release cycle, about every 6 months," a group product manager in Microsoft's Business Solutions division, Karen Engel, said. "We are adding big bulks of functionality each time,"

Key additions in Small Business Manager 7.5 are fixed asset management, allowing users to manage depreciation for assets such as equipment and vehicles, and new features for order and inventory management, including support for direct shipment, and management and forecasting of assembly components.

Other new features include support for additional financial reporting tools from FRx Software, a Microsoft subsidiary, and business intelligence tools from Crystal Decisions.

Microsoft has revamped license and support pricing for Small Business Manager, which is sold through a network of partners. Small Business Manager 7.5 costs $US995 for a single user and $US400 for each additional concurrent user with a maximum of 10 users.

Support cost 18 per cent of the license fee per year, Microsoft said.

While the single user price has not changed, Microsoft previously only offered a single user version or a five user version, that was priced at $2495.

The vendor also offered basic and preferred support plans, which cost $US275 and $US850 per year, respectively, for a single user, and $US575 and $US1,150 per year, respectively, for the five-user version. The preferred plan offered more support instances and a guaranteed turnaround time on those as well as unlimited online training.

Under the new pricing scheme the total price with support for a five user version comes out to about the same as before, while a single user version has become cheaper because of a drop in the support price.

Support included access to a library of online courses and two support instances with a guaranteed three-hour response time, Microsoft said. Several additions to Small Business Manager 7.5 were available, including an add-on for US payroll management that costs $US500 and can connect with Automatic Data Processing's (ADP) Payroll Service.

Microsoft Business Solutions offers a range of software and services including products it gained through the acquisitions of Great Plains Software and Navision.

Small Business Manager 7.5 uses the same base technology as Microsoft's Great Plains financial software, allowing for a "seamless upgrade" when the customer outgrew Small Business Manager, Engel said.

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