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Thunder or Lightening in the Cloud?

Like clouds in the sky, cloud accounting software remains in a state of perpetual motion with new products and new releases continually being announced. So what’s new in the world of cloud accounting for the small and micro business?

Firstly, MYOB is getting ever closer to releasing its flagship product in the cloud. MYOB LiveAccounts was its quasi placeholder until they solved issues related to the SQL and .NET deployment, however AccountRight Live is now in its final stages of beta testing with selected customers being invited to participate in a final pilot. The release date is a cautious Q4 2012 – so anytime after the next couple of weeks. This product has been billed as ‘cloud without compromise’ which is a neat term to indicate it is a hybrid desktop and cloud offering – run it on the desktop when you have heavy duty processing and in the cloud when you need the anywhere, any time, device concept.  However, I am not sure if the purists will recognise this as a true cloud product in that it has not been written to run on an internet browser and will not – at least initially – have a web API to connect to other software applications. QuickBooks which has  a similar hosted solution has failed to gain recognition as cloud accounting software for this reason – will the definition change now that it has been joined by MYOB?

Next in the line up of changes, Intuit, the US developer of Quicken and QuickBooks accounting software has moved into the Australian market with its cloud solution, QuickBooks Online. There are many similarities between it and the Australian QuickBooks reflecting their common roots, however it does not have Payroll or Inventory. The GST has been Australianised to a limited extent so can meet the needs of small businesses. Intuit has been described as ‘aggressively marketing to Reckon’s customers’ but I do wonder who is migrating to this product given the limiting factor at this point in time of no Payroll module.

Not yet launched but being prepared is a new product from Reckon. It is so new that it has not been officially named but will form part of the rebranded ReckonAccounts suite of products. The initial release due around January will be a cash accounting product only but the longer term plan is to have at least Accounts Receivable in the product. Initially it will be somewhat similar in functionality to Reckon’s existing CashBook Online product except it will have Customer invoicing, estimates and credit notes but again no Payroll and no Inventory.

Meanwhile Saasu has not been standing still, it has ambitious plans to radically reinterpret accounting software making  browser-based accounting programs obsolete. Saasu is aiming to build software by business model not by feature. Exactly how that will translate into reality hasn’t been unveiled but it is expected to be released early next year.

I haven’t been able to identify to much thunder or lightening in the world of Xero. The company continues to rollout releases to increase functionality, the latest release has included the long awaited Supplier Remittance advice and also multiple budgets. However their exponentially increasing customer base indicates that they must be doing something right. So much so they now have several more Add-on Partners with cost competitive software to enable businesses to convert from QuickBooks, MYOB and Sage to Xero – very helpful.

The celestial clash of the Titans looks set to continue.

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