September 26, 2002

Accounting software company sees Linux demand from clients wary of Microsoft

-By Grant Gross -
ACCPAC International received little attention when it released its mid-range enterprise accounting package for the Linux desktop a month ago, but company officials believe the move will pay off in the form of more customers.

The ACCPAC Advantage Series packages -- aimed at mid-sized companies too large to run home/small office accounting software and not big enough to need huge packages like PeopleSoft -- is the first mid-range accounting package to run on Linux servers and Linux desktops, according to ACCPAC. The company, which calls itself "the Switzerland of software," wants to give its customers choices, especially after widespread concerns raised this summer over Microsoft's new licensing scheme, says Craig Downing, ACCPAC v.p. for product management.

While ACCPAC PR people haven't been able to produce a potential customer for an interview, Downing says customers have been asking for ACCPAC's accounting packages on Linux. "People are looking at the [Linux] desktop more and more," he says. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I think it's an inevitability that you'll see Linux on the desktop at companies."

Downing says about 40% of potential Linux customers are companies concerned about Microsoft's licensing fees. Most of the rest are "Linux-by-choice" companies, often driven by their IT departments.

Offering the Linux option also gives ACCPAC's resellers a new way to differentiate themselves, Downing says. Those resellers can pitch the accounting application, while telling customers they don't have to be locked into one operating system. There's no need for retraining on a new accounting package if a customer switches.

"Even some of our customers that have been Microsoft-centric are hedging their bets," Downing says of the attitude he hears from clients.

Alan Perry, president of ACCPAC reseller ASP Information Systems of Boston, Massachusetts, says ACCPAC's Linux offering will allow companies to deploy mixed Linux and Microsoft environments, which lets companies gradually migrate to Linux, instead of turning around on a dime.

Perry has clients with the objective of being "Microsoft-free," and he expects significant sales of the Linux ACCPAC product, which, he notes, is a mature, stable product, "not a 1.0 release."

"I think the Linux platform is ready for the desktop," he says. "Here, we have an application that will run on the Linux platform as well as it will run on the Windows platform."

Perry, too, sees customers questioning whether they want to pay more for Microsoft licenses this year. "This is not the year to be piling on to these people who have been good customers," he says. "We've seen very favorable reaction with people saying they want to look at Linux this year because of Microsoft's new policies on maintenance of their products."

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