News started leaking late last week that Sage, the UK's largest software company, will release an on-demand accounting application called SageLive aimed at the SMB market. Details are sketchy beyond a blog post by competitor KashFlow but it seems the company is finally getting serious about the on-demand space after many years of false starts:
It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever seen from them before. It’s all in AJAX (posting to a Sage 50 database as the backend) and has a very nice interface. If it wasn’t for the Sage name in the top right-corner you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the work of a cutting-edge Israeli start up.
Author Duane Jackson both praises what he saw and puts it down in equal measure. For me, the most damning indictment is:
One of the first things I try with a new accounting product is to create an invoice. I couldn’t quickly work out how to with SageLive - it’s definitely lacking the intuitiveness of KashFlow and other web-based apps. It suffers from the same problem as all of Sages products - it’s obviously designed by people that have never run a small business. It looks really good and it sounds really good, but a scratch of the surface shows it simply doesn’t deliver the goods.
Buyers and accpountants will be the final arbiters but Sage will have to do something interesting if they are to avoid the dreaded So-SaaS moniker. Alleged to be aggressively priced at £10 ($14) per month (but what this means is as yet unknown), it seems that Sage is restricting this to the UK market. Paul Miller notes:
Duane suggests that SageLive is ‘posting to a Sage 50 database in the backend,’ which (if I understand correctly) means they’re limiting the reach of the new offering to just the UK because of the data structures used in that particular product line. If true, this would seem something of a missed opportunity for alignment of the company’s confused product mish-mash.
Without additional information, it is difficult to judge whether this is a strength of weakness but my gut feel says that anything based on proprietary or closed database systems is going to be a restrictive offering.
Sage is promising me a briefing - once we can sync calendars - at which time I will get a lot more information.
Regardless of what Sage does, this is a much needed validation of the on demand accounting market, coming as it does form the biggest name in SMB business applications outside the US. QuickBooks? You're on notice.