Starting November 16, Microsoft is ending distribution and sales of its Microsoft Office Accounting product. Company officials began notifying customers of the decision on October 30.
All Microsoft Office Accounting products in the UK and North America are affected by the decision, including Office Accounting Express, Office Accounting Standard, Office Accounting Professional, Office Accounting Professional Plus, Office Accounting 3-user and Small Business Accounting.
Here's the back story as to why, according to a statement e-mailed to me by a company spokesperson:
"After evaluating the product over the past few years we have determined that other Microsoft offerings such as free templates in the Office system used with Excel and the Dynamics product are able to meet our customers’ needs. The Office Small Business web site has links to free templates for small businesses, such as invoices, expenses, time sheets, budgets and more and Microsoft’s Small Business Center is also a great resource for small businesses."
Microsoft officials said that existing Office Accounting customers will get five years of mainstream, free support and five years of extended, paid support. Those who recently bought the product can return it for a refund within 30 days of purchase. (Details on how to return the activation key are here.)
The add-on services that are part of Office Accounting, including online sales from eBay and credit profile from Equifax, will no longer be available after December 15, 2009. The credit-card-processing services and service allowing users to order compatible checks and forms are still going to be available, however. In addition, according to a Frequently Asked Questions document on Microsoft's Web site, "your customers will still be able to pay emailed invoices directly through PayPal."
In the UK, as of October 30, Microsoft parter Mamut is taking over product support for Microsoft Office Accounting users. From an update sent to me by Mamut:
"In addition to receiving ongoing customer support from Mamut, current users of Microsoft Office Accounting will be offered a free upgrade to Mamut Business Software solutions. Microsoft will no longer distribute Microsoft Office Accounting in the UK as of November 16, 2009, but Mamut will continue to invest in product development and services to ensure an easy transition for the approximately 100,000 registered users of Microsoft Office Accounting in the UK."
Update: Microsoft is not disclosing how many total existing customers it has for Office Accounting. (I asked.) I also asked Microsoft whether it has a U.S. support partner in the wings and received this response from a spokesperson:
"Microsoft is considering possible partnership opportunities for qualifying ISV partners in the US; however, we do not have anything to announce at this time. For small businesses, free templates in the Microsoft Office system can be used in conjunction with Microsoft Excel. Mid-sized businesses have the option of using the Microsoft Dynamics ERP products."
Microsoft has discontinued a number of its consumer and small-business offerings in recent months. In June, Microsoft said it was discontuining Microsoft Money. It also has dropped its Digital Image Suite and Encarta from its line-up.