From the Expo Floor: Business Software Roundup

The Mac rules the roost when it comes to the creative professional market. It's king of the hill when it comes to education. But in the small business-home office sector, the platform has never really caught fire, despite its apparent ease of use.

The problem? There's no complete software package that handles the nuts and bolts of running a small business, says Clent Richardson, Apple's vice president of worldwide developer relations. QuickBooks offers business management features, but Intuit hasn't updated the Mac version in years.

MYOB (800/851-1315, www.myob.com), the developers of Accounting Plus bookkeeping software, thinks it can fill that breach. The company plans a fall release for its latest product, MYOB AccountEdge. A successor to Accounting Plus 9.0, AccountEdge is billed as small business management software.

AccountEdge offers many of the same features included in MYOB Accounting Plus, such as multiple currency accounting, professional time billing, inventory, payroll, and invoice and purchase order sending and tracking.

But the new program also adds contact management capabilities. Multiple tabs let users quickly access information on customers, vendors, and personnel. AccountEdge can track entire purchasing histories and log any contacts with customers. The program's Contact Log feature allows users to set reminders that appear in To Do Lists for specific dates. And AccountEdge uses the stored contact data to fill out customized letters, invoices, or orders.

That's just what the small businesses on the Mac have needed, Richardson says.

"The small business market has been missing one thing," he added. "We haven't had a great solution that empowers small businesses. Today we (found) out about it."

Even so, AccountEdge remains in development, and some features have not yet been finalized. For example, MYOB's accounting software has featured tight integration with Microsoft Office. MYOB hopes to continue that with AccountEdge, says Tom Nash, MYOB's director of product management. The company is working with Microsoft to integrate AccountEdge with the upcoming Office 2001 update.

The version shown by MYOB Wednesday sported OS X's Aqua interface. AccountEdge will run on Mac OS 8.6 and higher when it's released. An OS X-ready version will be ready when Apple is ready to ship the new operating system, Nash says.

The full version of AccountEdge will sell for $249. Accounting Plus 9.0 users will be able to upgrade to the new software, though a price hasn't been set yet.

"This will be the finest small business product on the Mac, which is to say it will be the finest small business product in the world," said MYOB executive director Christopher Lee. "If you write a check, you'll be able to use AccountEdge."

 

In other business software news from Macworld Expo:

An office productivity device long available for Windows has made its way to the Mac. Mimio captures images drawn on a whiteboard and sends them to your Mac. The $599 device from Virtual Ink (877/696-4646, www.mimio.com) includes a USB-powered capture bar and four casings that hold any standard-sized dry-erase marker.

As you scribble notes on the whiteboard, the pen casing sends a signal to the capture bar, which recreates the image stroke-by-stroke on your computer. The software that accompanies Mimio lets you save, edit, and send images.

While Mimio seems like a natural fit for offices--imagine not having to copy whiteboard notes by hand--Virtual Ink wants to target another segment as well: the Mac's big education market.

SPSS (www.spss.com) made headlines late last year when it announced it would bring its flagship statistical software back to the Mac. The company announced Wednesday that SPSS 10.0 will ship in September.

SPSS stopped updating the Mac version of the data access, analysis and preparation product in 1995.

Software MacKiev helped build the new Mac product, re-engineering the Windows version of SPSS 10.0 to run as a native Mac application.

SPSS 10.0 will sell for $999. The company set academic pricing at $499.

Microsoft set an October shipping date for its Mac Office update. The software giant had already announced new features set to appear in Office 2001, and used its slot during Steve Jobs's Expo keynote to again tout some of the Office updates. Office now offers includes customizable document templates, centralized formatting tools on a single palette, and built-in tools for importing graphics into Office documents and converting PowerPoint files into QuickTime movies. There's also Entourage 2001, Office's new Personal Information Manager (PIM) feature.

Only one last detail remains: the price. Microsoft didn't announce anything Wednesday.

Zap Business Communications Systems (www.zapbcs.com) announced two new Web-based products that could play into the Mac's dominance in the publishing and graphics arts markets. Jobworks is a Web-based workflow management system that aims to track tasks while integrating partners and clients into the workflow process. Pricing starts at $9,500 for a 50-user license. The other product, Siteyard, is a Web publishing tool emphasizing the creation and management of interactive content. A Siteyard server license costs $6,500.

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