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On November 13, Intuit is set to expand its core QuickBooks product line both vertically and up into the mid-market, setting the stage for a face-off with Microsoft’s small-business division in several, key areas.

Microsoft is betting on its systems integration, reseller, and independent-software vendor partners to tailor its products for vertical markets while Intuit relies on direct sales, telemarketing and retail to sell its offerings to SMBs.

New products on tap from Intuit — the Mountain View, Calif., vendor of financial and business-management software — include industry-specific versions of QuickBooks 2004 for retail, professional services and manufacturing and wholesale. Intuit will also be taking the wraps off its latest versions of its QuickBooks Basic, Pro and Enterprise products, as well as its existing QuickBooks for accountants and QuickBooks for point-of-sale retailers next week, as well.

Intuit previewed its new product line for customers, press and analysts this week in closed-door demonstrations in New York City.

At the same time, Intuit is expanding its market presence beyond its traditional small-business base, up into the mid-market, which Intuit identifies as companies with 20 to 250 employees.

A little over two years ago, Intuit was focused on its plain-vanilla QuickBooks and payroll services businesses. But in late 2001, the company launched its Right for My Business” strategy, which is designed to take Intuit into three growth areas: the mid-market, industry-specific niches; and services beyond accounting/payroll.

“We’re not trying to go upstream,” says Dan Levin, senior vice president with Intuit’s QuickBooks group. “Our customers are pulling us upstream.”

Two years ago, Doug Burgum, the head of Microsoft’s Business Solutions unit (MBS) characterized Intuit as MBS’ No. 1 competitor in the small/mid-size business (SMB) arena. But Intuit execs claim, at least for now, they seldom find themselves competing with Great Plains, Navision, Solomon, MS CRM or other MBS wares.

That situation could change, however, as MBS is selling its solutions primarily into the mid-market, which is Intuit’s new target. And MBS has several new product launches set for the coming months — such as MS CRM 1.2 and 2.0; Retail Management System 2.0 and Small Business Manager 8.0 — which will pit Redmond head-to-head with Intuit’s latest products.