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First sight of QuickBooks 2008. By John Stokdyk

12th Sep 2007
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The UK release of QuickBooks 2008 introduces Microsoft's SQL Server database to give the accounting application greater capacity, better stability and access to a catalogue of third party applications, according to Intuit product manager Kamlesh Rajyaguru.

In a live product demonstration for AccountingWEB, Rajyaguru highlighted the new features that have been attracting attention during previews with QuickBooks professional advisers.

Apart from dealing with the underlying database, which standardises the UK edition of QuickBooks on the same architecture as its north American relatives, the developer focused its attention on user interface improvements to make the program easier to use, a new global VAT engine and better integration with Microsoft Office.

With two-way synchronisation to Outlook supported within the core accounting application, Rajyaguru confirmed that Intuit had discontinued its embryonic Customer Manager contact management module. "With better integration, we felt there wasn't a need for a separate product," he said.

"Outlook synchronisation caters for the majority of users and those who have advanced needs can use the Intuit software developer's kit (SDK) to link into existing products. Quickbooks already integrates with ACT! and Salesforce.com in the US, and now we are on the same SDK, they will automatically integrate with the UK version too."

During his demonstration, the QuickBooks product manager highlighted the following new features in the 2008 edition.

Streamlined set-up process
Customer feedback indicated that it was taking up to 2.5 hours to create a company using the old QuickBooks Easy Step interview process, so the wizard was completely revamped to make it possible to complete within 30 minutes, Rajyaguru said. "We've kept the essentials that every business needs, but with the help of accountants, we reduced the number of screens from 126 to 28."

Revised process maps
QuickBooks claims to have pioneered the graphical process maps that are now standard in rival applications such as Sage 50 and MYOB Accounts. To differentiate QuickBooks, Intuit has consolidated the program's cost, customer, banking, supplier and employee "centres" into a single "one-click" home page process map. Responding to the need to focus on customer service, each Centre page includes a list of customers in the left hand pane so users can access their records quickly. If someone is on the phone, the user can click their name on the list and select all the transactions and documents associated with them, or use filters to narrow the choices (see below). Double clicking an item in the list will take you to the source document.

Notes and contact history
The Customer List screen includes a notes section, so that users can record conversations and actions within the customer record - with a date stamp facility. That makes it easier for someone else working on the account to see what's going on, Rajyaguru said.

Customisability - on-screen and reports
All of the on screen grids - for customers, accounts, suppliers and so on - are now fully customisable in QuickBooks 2008 in a manner that would earn David Carter's approval. The records can be sorted by clicking the top of each column and the grid can be altered by moving columns around, or deleting them.

Similar flexibility is also available for the forms and invoice produced from QuickBooks 2008. "The first thing a business does is create an estimate. That piece of paper is going to say a lot about the business," said Rajyaguru. The Create Invoice command includes a range of Customisation controls (below) that let the user change fonts and colours, or add logos to their invoices. "We've given users the ability to change layouts, fonts and colour schemes and save money on printers," he added. A live preview of the form is visible on screen, so there is no longer any need to close the Layout Designer and go into Print Preview to see the impact of your graphical enhancements. The response from QuickBooks professional advisers to this new facility has been very positive, Rajyaguru said.

Integration with Microsoft Office
Integration with Microsoft Word is evident in the Prepare an Invoice option, which fires up a letter wizard with options to create a cover letter or a letter with invoice details included. The data will go straight into Word with two clicks and be ready for printing and sending. Or you can choose the option to Email an invoice, which sets up an Outlook message with the document included as a PDF attachment.

Reducing errors?
Feedback from QuickBooks-using accountants indicated that "the last thing they want to do is spend time correcting clients' bookkeeping entries", Rajyaguru said. "So we've programmed QuickBooks to learn what the previous entry was for a supplier or customer - what accounts they related to and so on. So the next time a bill comes from the same supplier, it will automatically prefill with their expense account." While the program will default to the last posting, the ability to alter the destination account is still provided by a pull-down menu.

Cheque module
Reducing errors was also the objective of the upgraded Check Writing option in the Banking module. "If there's someone on the phone and you write a cheque under pressure and there's an outstanding bill, your accounts payable will be out," says the Rajyaguru. If there is an outstanding bill from the cheque recipient, QuickBooks 2008 will remind the user.

VAT module
Intuit has devised a global VAT engine that is now built into QuickBooks 2008 (see below). The new system redresses the program's shortcomings at dealing with cash-based VAT accounting, which is applied by half the program's UK users. Previously, there was no way for a cash-based VAT trader to flag transactions that had already been filed on a VAT return, which made reconciliation difficult. A Cash Basis report will now flag up these transactions and tag them with a file state, so that if someone posts a late entry, you can enter the original date and it will be picked up in the following return. However, there are no equivalent routines for coping for the VAT flat rate scheme, so the user or accountant will need to apply workarounds that are explained on the QuickBooks website.

The new VAT module includes support for electronic filing, with Pay Now and Pay Later options, and one for those who choose to pay their VAT liabilities in monthly instalments.

Reporting enhancements
QuickBooks 2008 features a new Report Centre (see below) which doesn't alter the scope of many reports, but does present them in a more comprehensible way, Rajyaguru explained. The report templates are stored in subject categories, with hyperlinks to text explaining their purpose and use (for example, an explanation of what a balance sheet means for a non-accountant user). By hovering over the report's icon, you can see a thumbnail preview, or clicking the blue hyperlink will open the actual report.

As in previously, reports can be modified and "Memorised" into the Report Centre library for future use.

Google Desktop
Intuit has done a deal with Google so that the search engine's Desktop tool is a available as an option within QuickBooks. The search facilities allow you to search within the accounting application alone, or for any other related documents held on the local machine. One click on the search hyperlink will open the selected document.

Database and SDK enhancements
The migration to Microsoft's SQL Server will be almost invisible to users, but having a common relational database engine and SDK with the US version of QuickBooks opens the door to more than 400 third party software applications listed in the QuickBooks Solutions Marketplace. Around 240 of these programs came up when filtered for the UK QuickBooks Premier 2005 version.

"If people who take sales orders want to send them via PDAs, they'll have the ability to do that using third party applications," said Rajuaguru. "Or if someone wanted an online timesheet application, there are some available that can bring the data into QuickBooks. Now that we're on the same SDK, they are all available in the UK. It's one of our best kept secrets."

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Replies (26)

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By AnonymousUser
19th Sep 2007 16:50

Intuit is abandoning our clients
The 2006 version is not compatible with Vista. This limits the possiblities for carrying on with the "devil you know".

The 2008 version lacks multicurrency, which is essential for most of our clients.

We shall be researching other options as Intuit seems to have abandoned the market where our clients operate.

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By Briar
13th Sep 2007 13:04

Data Import
Only if they enable importing data via csv files will I start recommending QB!

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By Robjoy
13th Sep 2007 12:16

But what have they left out?
Many of the features you mention have been present in QuickBooks for years! The new version has a some good new features, particularly with VAT, but there's one nasty omission: no more multi-currency. The US version has lagged behind by not having multi-currency, and now, presumably because the new UK version was built from the US one (most likely because of the major change to SQL as the 'engine'), we have lost this important facility.

Many longstanding QB users will not be able to upgrade, and I believe Intuit UK have lost a significant competitive advantage.

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By pg424
13th Sep 2007 12:56

Quickbooks 2008
This article was not useful to me. As siad by other users, most of these facilities are well established in Quickbooks and he lack of multi currency will be a problem for many of many clients.

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By Thebux
13th Sep 2007 14:00

Quick Books year end
And when are they going to implement a year end routine which highlights any changes to opening balances?

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By altatraining
13th Sep 2007 14:34

Reply to comments and own views
In reply to Martin Buck - perhaps you are not aware of this, but if you close off periods so you won't have movements to opening balance figures. (Go to Company in the menu bar then select Set Up Users, and Closing Date is a button on the window which the Admin user can set). By setting a password to this you cannot enter historical transactions prior to the closing date without knowing the password. That feature has been around for years and continues in 2008.

In reply to Ian Dalzell's comment - there are utilities you can use to import transactions directly from excel without needing the iif file format, see for example AaaTex's TransImporter (http://www.aaatex.com/QuickBooks_Transaction_Importer_Excel.htm).

In reply to David Simpson's comment - this version of QB is SIGNIFICANLTY different. Outlook 2003 & 2007 integration has not been around in QB 05/06, customer centres are completely new and significantly speed up how you find and look up information, forms customisation is greatly improved and VAT handling is completely new as is the Payroll processing. For the record, cash based VAT filing were not in any previous version of QB, and the new engine can also handle flat rate schemes, and reverse charges/MTIC very nicely.

In reply to Peter Greene and Joyce Beck's comments - yes multicurrency (MC) has been the sacrificial lamb this time around, but you have to start somewhere. I also have clients using MC, and it's no big deal for them to just stay on QB 06.

All in all big improvements and it's great that the UK is streamlined to the US engine because in future UK users will greatly benefit from having the muscle of the US development resources behind the product. We're already seeing the benefit of having access to many more 3rd party applications. There are some amazing tools in there! Have a look at http://marketplace.intuit.com

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By AnonymousUser
13th Sep 2007 14:52

Multi currency
...and which bright spark at Intuit thought that removing multicurrency was a good idea? Even small businesses buy and sell from overseas and most do not have the in house ability to manually enter foreign transactions in sterling etc.

Also - for accountants - the best way to minimise setting up of company time is just to skip the interview in most cases. QuickBooks charts of accounts are far too complicated for most small businesses - far easier to just set up/copy a chart from another small business. Most accountants only routinely use 20-30 nominal ledger accounts.

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By altatraining
13th Sep 2007 15:14

setting up and predefined chart of accounts
In reply to Bryan Stevens - Firstly, not everyone uses an accountant to setup, perhaps they should, but the reality is they don't.

Secondly, the 29 different Chart of Accounts available have been redesigned and streamlined A LOT, and you now have the option to select which accounts you want to accept prior to creating the company file. I don't used preset CofA's with my clients, and find this very helpful.

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By cbales
13th Sep 2007 16:33

QuickBooks 2008 - the shape of things to come
I've been to a preview today and this new version will open up the program's usability to many more potential users as it uses a much more powerful platform.

True, the multicurrency feature has gone for the time being until the Americans have engineered in their increasing need for it for the USA market but it will be back and existing multicurrency users will continue to have full support on the 2006 version at least until then.

Its faster and easier to use. The navigator screens and a lot more are significantly improved. The payroll always has been good ever since I started to use it and it is now improved again - many accountants and others use it for payroll bureau software.

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By AnonymousUser
13th Sep 2007 17:44

Year End routine
In response to the query about the year end routine, i think that by not having this functionality it actually improves the software. I know that from an auditors point of view it is not ideal as clients can post into prior years and mess with the opening balances but that is easily solved by using the set closing date password under accounting preferences tab. I use this every month when i close off my month end accounts and it works well by asking for a password to process an entry into a prior period, this then forces the user to post the entry using a different date.

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By Albasas
14th Sep 2007 08:57

Money To Burn With Intuit
I'm just amazed that any SME with only basic book-keeping requirements feels that it's cruicial to update Quickbooks more than say every 3-5 years. I switched years ago from their payroll and I am now no longer either an Intuit or Sage 'junkie'. Which is when you think of it is what they are creating. A dependency culture. Buying this software so they can experiment and squeeze more money out of you and your clients anytime they feel is not an option.

I agree dropping multi-currency is a mistake, that was useful. Still more reason for keeping the installation of that version on the computer; and the new one in its 'nice shiny brand new box gathering dust somewhere else! The latter for those existing or new client's wandering in to the practice chuffed to bits by their smart but sheepish acquisition of the latest version of Quickbooks. Doh! Back-up earlier versions immediately I say.

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By altatraining
14th Sep 2007 15:05

launch date
The launch date for QB 2008 is Sept 18th, and yes it skips the QB 07 year/name.

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By adrianking
14th Sep 2007 13:04

No QB regular
Biggest blow in my opinion is that QB regular has been dropped from the range. The 'discount' for buying software + payroll at the same time has also been removed.

So we now have small clients needing to shell out the best part of £400 every year if they want to run their own payroll. I know there is a monthly scheme, but this is still way more expensive than the old price of £150 for regular including payroll.

Big mistake - we are now looking at alternatives...

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By Mike Kneill
16th Sep 2007 06:21

QBs 2008 disaster!
As a user of QuickBooks for the last 14 years and as a QuickBooks Professional Advisor, I have recently received my copy of QuickBooks Accountant 2008 from Intuit. What an utter disaster!

The problems of installation and upgrading data files from the previous version (QB2006) are immense and any existing users of earlier versions should seriously consider whether they should upgrade. I have spent about eight hours trying to install the program and upgrade just one company data file and with very limited success. It takes approximately 6 minutes to just open the program from the desktop, and that is on a fairly high spec machine.

Upgrading the data file from QB2006 to QB2008 took several attempts and a couple of hours. Over many years, I have been installing and setting up QBs for clients and training them in the use of the program. I can install and set up QB2006 within an hour. I cannot even satisfactorily install and set up QB2008 on my own computer in eight hours.

One problem I did encounter straight away, when I eventually managed to get into the program, is that templates for invoices, etc. will not transfer across into the new program. Having spent many hours designing and formatting invoices and credit notes in QB2006, I would have to start all over again in QB2008.

What other problems are lurking in there? In my opinion, this program is presently unusable. Beware.

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By Robjoy
15th Sep 2007 11:11

Multi-currency pain
Tim Martin says "Anyone serious about booking keeping can get round any issues on multi-currency - QB was never that great on that front nor though are other similarly priced products. "

Well, yes, before QB could do multi-currency I had to do it 'by steam'. But what a pain in the posterior! QB's multi-currency function is not perfect, but it beats DIY by a mile. Now my company has three of us using a single QB company file concurrently, we were looking forward to the upgrade, because it offered real hope of an improvement in speed, as well as a few good tweaks and improvements. But we cannot upgrade.

As to third party applications: many will not be instantly portable to the UK version because our VAT is significantly different to the US sales tax regime, and our payroll is different. It is usual to have to wait for vendors to produce the UK version of their products, and not all of them will do it at all. Caution required if you go looking for add-ons on US sites!

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By paul.k2
13th Sep 2007 16:16

Quickbooks 2008
One of the most frustrating aspects of QB is the lack of integration with many of the add-ons. So alignment with the US in that sense is good

But for customers based in the Rep. of Ireland and Northern Ireland, multi-currency is a way of life. It seems very short sighted not to include this.

Finally, yesterday I was told by QB UK that the release of 2007 is imminent.
Does this article mean that QB will skip straight to 2008. Does anyone know a date.

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By David Carter
15th Sep 2007 15:21

Iris Accounts Office if you need multi-currency?
Intuit seem to be shooting themselves in the foot on this multicurrency issue. Just to add some more pain, Iris have just released a sub-£1000 version of Exchequer and Exchequer has one of the best multi-currency modules in the business. See last week's article.

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By abelljms
20th Sep 2007 06:06

qb2008
I’ll guarantee that bank recs will still be a terrd to do,

they will not have eliminated the ridiculous "receive funds", oh and separately you want to "bank funds" nonsense.

it will still desperately try to load and recalculate all the windows left open when you last closed down Qbooks, and recalculate every screen next time you re-open.

there will still be no simple way of allocating cash to open transactions at a later date once you have worked out what a cheque relates to

it will still take for ever to load compared to Sageland


etc....

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By cbales
20th Sep 2007 12:12

For Chris and others re QuickBooks 2006 and 2008
Chris
Recent download patches from Intuit do update QuickBooks 2006 to run properly on Vista.

Download the latest patches using the QuickBooks Update routine from the file menu or, if the relevant machines do not have an online connection, contact QuickBooks UK and they will supply a replacement CD patched to current level. Remember that all machines running QuickBooks on the same network server can share one download provided that they all have network connection.

QuickBooks 2008 contains its biggest upgrade step so far this decade - a new more powerful and proven database. Proven because it is in use in the US versions but that is the reason for the loss of the multicurrency feature pro tem as there is no such thing as currency other than the US Dollar for the vast majority of Americans. The Americans are however now waking up to the fact that the World does not trade in US Dollars only and the multi-currency feature will be back.

Intuit have promised continuing full support for QuickBooks 2006 in the meantime. Not the ideal situation but user surveys have shown that the vast bulk of users do not use multicurrency. Of my own client portfolio and other users that I havesupported over the last 2 years, I can only remember around 10% who do but Chris's portfolio is clearly larger.

One of the number I have supported who does use multicurrency uses that feature for less than 5 transactions a month. Conversion into sterling data with the aid of a calculator and recorded notes or with the aid of a spreadsheet would add very little time in actual usage and would enable them to upgrade to QuickBooks 2008 until the multi-currency feature returns very easily. A bit of lateral thinking could well turn this area into a minor issue for many QuickBooks users in the meantime.

Software will always contain some compromises. Whether 2006 or 2008 version, what it undoubtedly is, however, is feature packed smaller business accounting software which continues to improve and increase its user base. As QuickBooks 2008 runs on the same database engine that powers the US versions, it immediately increases the number of tried and tested compatible software items to over 400. The Google search engine desktop tool is a neat optional addition that many will find useful.


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By carnmores
23rd Sep 2007 11:59

Cris B
and i have been usin QB for about as long as anyone in the UK and i fullly support his views, altogh i have a few problems with its pricing model in comparison with other everyday accounts packages it is still tremendous value and you see the effect it has had on sage - i would like to see intuit buy them - Malcolm the recive funds bank funds is sometimes a chore but you have a choice you do not need to use it which v are you on

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By paulfieldcrest
23rd Sep 2007 13:16

But those prices!
Interesting comments all. I too think that much is improved in the new version, but my main concern at this point is the disappearance of the "base" version - QuickBooks Regular.

I spend much of my working week coaching new business startups and running book-keeping workshops for them.

In my view QuickBooks is ideal for these guys because it leads them gently into the sometimes tortuous world of business record-keeping, and since the emphasis is on transactions, they only have to think in terms of what they normally do, and how their business interfaces with the outside world. Most of them are accounting virgins but they can get their heads around this.

However, the biggest problem my startups face is lack of capital. Most of them are setting up as sole traders, and every penny counts until they get their sales income established. Up to now they could get QuickBooks Regular for about £110 including VAT, and for most of them the package has everything they need and more. I know that in recommending QuickBooks to them, I'm helping them put in place a book-keeping strategy which will stand them in good stead for the forseeable future, with an upgrade path if they grow their business.

Since I started doing this work, the normal pattern has been that from a class of about 30 on one of my programmes, about 10 to 15 will buy QuickBooks Regular and make good progress, 1 or 2 will need Pro, because they're setting up something on a larger scale, and 1 or 2 will try SimpleStart and come back within a month saying that they can't use it.

Last week, I was able to show my students QB 2008 for the first time,. We compared it with the 2006 version we'd been working with for the previous 3 weeks, and the response was all positive.

Except when we came to the price! The overwhelmimg opinion was that £300 was too much for them at this stage, so they would stick to 2006 Regular. Off they all went to get their orders in to Amazon, while there's still some stock left.

But what happens when all the 2006 versions in the warehouses are mopped up? Effectively, from now on I don't have a competitive QuickBooks product to recommend to new businesses. Sage Instant Accounts is available for less than £130. Personally, I think QuickBooks is the better software, particularly for novices, but if they can't afford it, they can't afford it.

I've had some exchanges with the people at Intuit, but predictably, they are happy that their policy is the right one.

I'm not, and neither are my clients.

QuickBooks 2008 might well be the best book-keeping software available, but the new pricing policy means very small businesses will buy and struggle with something else.

Finally, how frustrating that in the US QuickBooks 2007 Pro (the exact same version that we're discussing here) is available for the equivalent of £75. Says it all really.

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By TheBooks
24th Sep 2007 15:18

2008
I agree with Paul. The dropping of QB regular is a great mistake. Until QuickStart can cope with accruals accounting it will be redundant. Thus clients will have to fork out £300 for Pro. Sage instant only costs £130
90% of my clients do not need the extra features that Pro gives above Regular and of those 10% about half of them only needed it for multicurrency ~ which isn't available in the 2008 version.
QuickBooks is a great program for small businesses. I am worried that by dropping the Regular version they will priice themselves out of the market.

Looking at the new version I see improvements with VAT reporting (especially cash accounting) and possibly with payroll ( I haven't had time to look into this closely yet). BUT there are some serious problems.
The tax line has been dropped from each account meaning that tax return reports can no longer be produced. On the bank reconciliation screen it is no longer possible to sort data by amount, date payee etc.Once again this is a great inconvenience.
On upgrading neither the memorised reports nor customised invoice templates are transferred across.
Unless these issues are addressed I will not be upgrading my clients onto the new version.
I did pass my comments on to Intuit via the PA section of the website. To their credit the telephoned me straight away to discuss my concerns. I urge all other PA's to do likewise if they feel strongly about the dropping of Regular or other issues.

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By dahowlett
24th Sep 2007 23:43

Hate to say it but...
Isn't this kerfuffle over upgrades etc a good reason in its own right for professionals to start looking up at the world of on-demand/saas offerings?

On-demand means everyone is updated each time without the user needing to lift a finger. It's all done in the data centre on the users' behalf.

It also means that new functions, patches, fixes etc are administered centrally so are never an issue from the user's perspective.

QED - no being crucified as Intuit have been on this occasion.

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By abelljms
08th Nov 2007 11:13

web-based software,
I agree about web-based software, but it’s all appallingly expensive e.g. liberty accounts.
Some geek needs to write the equivalent of Visual Transaction, as a web app, and then we all rock on.


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By carnmores
08th Nov 2007 17:59

Dennis you are getting righter every day!
i know you are working on a lot of stuff at the moment so its good to see you are still tuned in.

there were too many versions of QBs

addins and outlook are a gaint step forward

the currency routine neeed re writing anyway go to money manager for that

you can reconcile cash vat accounting , all you need to do is flag tthe entries from the report in the vat control account

memorised posting been in for years as have the ven better memorised transactions

note taking also been in sounds easier now

the bank recs were dead easy as opposed to the sage fiasco , if they are a problem reconcile more often it is always easier then

integrated payroll and accounting solutions will always suffer as a result of government meddling and the need to keep rewriting the payroll program - the secret is to devise a half way house which imports the data

dont always look at what you are losing look at what you are gaining as well

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By dahowlett
08th Nov 2007 18:12

The price is right
@Malcolm - yo are describing a problem many vendors are experiencing right now - commoditization. In other words, there is no value in the product they're using.

@Nicholas - you're right - I am busy but that's not stopping me tuning in to see what's going on. That's why I have RSS ;)

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