Microsoft is making a new attempt to lure QuickBooks users over to Dynamics GP, its enterprise resource planning application for small and medium-size businesses, through a set of dedicated data migration tools and a new marketing campaign.
Microsoft is not interested in killing off the popular brand of accounting software -- just in grabbing the users who need broader capabilities over time, said Jon Pratt, senior director for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL and Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System.
Intuit, maker of QuickBooks, claims to have a major chunk of market share already -- 4 million users overall -- and that its stake is well-guarded.
Microsoft's Platt, however, says, "a lot of those customers as they've grown have probably stayed on QuickBooks too long. There's a lot of pain they start running into."
Such discomfort might occur as companies form multiple divisions or open a number of warehouses, Pratt suggested.
Microsoft has created a wizard-style tool for migrating QuickBooks data over to Dynamics GP. The tool lets users edit or update data while making the switch.
Microsoft is also launching a new Web site, www.asmartmove.com, in April. The site will contain "example pricing" for complete product packages, which include software licenses and partner implementation costs.
But Microsoft is offering no guarantees because Dynamics is sold through partners who ultimately determine the final price, Pratt stressed. "We're being very clear on the Web site that these are estimates, and [customers] will need to talk to partners to get a detailed proposal."
Dynamics in general is sold on three levels. The first level, Business Essentials, starts at an estimated US$2,250 per user, according to a spokesperson.
Microsoft believes the "core small-business" and "core mid-market" sectors, containing companies with 10-49 and 100-500 employees, respectively, is worth $2.5 billion.
Angus Thomson, vice president and general manager of Intuit's Mid Market Group, said the company is actually seeing Dynamics GP customers switch to its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions product, which provides more functionality than the basic accounting offering. "We're also retaining our base. With 4 million [users], some of them grow up. We capture the vast majority of those people that grow up."
There are approximately 50,000 implementations of QuickBooks Enterprise, according to Intuit.
"We're winning a lot of switchers. They're gaining a few," Thomson added. "It is not as if they're announcing all of a sudden that they're winning against QuickBooks."
Microsoft also must vie with many other contenders for the remaining customers, said China Martens, an analyst with the 451 Group. "Other guys are swooping in," she said.
At the same time, the fact that Microsoft's products are tightly integrated into its stack can serve as a competitive advantage, she noted. "Whenever I ask a competitor, 'Why'd you lose a deal,' the answer is, 'this was a Microsoft shop.'"
But another observer said the company's efforts are familiar music and likely won't shift the landscape too dramatically.
"Whenever a vendor wants to move down from wherever they are and start going into the smaller businesses, Intuit is a very dominant player, so this is the natural thing to do," said Laurie McCabe, an analyst with AMI Partners. "Everybody tries to go after QuickBooks because, face it: This is the big installed base," she said.
Part of the problem is that "a lot of small businesses stay small" and therefore aren't looking to upgrade their software, she asserted.
Microsoft's deep channel program and overall understanding of the small-business market, however, will help it present "a serious challenge," McCabe added.
"I think we can't underestimate their ability to chip away at what Intuit has. On the other hand, the vast majority of the Intuit installed base, they aren't thinking of going anywhere. ... It's not going to be a big avalanche of business."