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Softview Sees a Window of Opportunity : Computers: An Oxnard firm plans to capitalize on Microsoft’s new IBM program after electronic tax filing increases its sales 63%.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Softview Inc., an Oxnard company that makes do-it-yourself tax preparation computer software, has a knack for jumping into untried markets.

Last year, Softview confidently predicted that it would double its sales by getting into the electronic tax filing business. The company provided software that helped a San Diego firm transmit taxpayers’ forms to the Internal Revenue Service and got a fee for each transmission. (Softview has a similar arrangement with a different company this year.)

Boosted by the electronic filing service, Softview’s sales rose about 63% to $6.2 million in the year that ended June 30 from $3.8 million the previous year.

This year, Softview is plunging into another new market. Until now, most of Softview’s business has been selling software for Apple Macintosh computers. Now the company hopes to cash in on the introduction by industry giant Microsoft of a program called Windows 3.0, which makes traditional IBM-style personal computers work like Macintosh computers, which some people consider easier to master. Most of Softview’s software programs, whether for Macintosh or IBM-style computers, carry the brand name MacInTax.

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Windows allows users of IBM-style home computers to operate their software by moving symbols and pictures around on the computer screen, a prime reason for the Apple Macintosh’s popularity. Traditional software for IBM-style home computers generally is operated only by typed commands.

MacInTax dominates the market for Macintosh-based tax preparation software. Softview says it is now the only company that makes tax-preparation software that works on the Windows 3.0 system. Again, Softview is hoping that the new foray will lead to another big jump in sales.

But this year, the competition may get tougher. Until now, Softview hasn’t competed head-to-head with ChipSoft, a San Diego company that makes the best-selling tax-preparation software for IBM-style home computers, called TurboTax. But as Softview starts to make software that can be used on IBM clones, ChipSoft is starting to make a version of TurboTax that can be used on Apple Macintosh computers.

“We’re pretty excited about being able to compete,” said Al Noyes, ChipSoft’s vice president for marketing.

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Kathy Lane, Softview’s president, was not so diffident: “I think I will sell more of my Windows product than they will sell to Mac users this year.”

About 100 companies make tax preparation software, although only a handful of the programs are well-known. The programs are a best seller from about January to April, when taxes are due, said John Kist, a spokesman for Egghead Inc., the nation’s biggest software retailer, based in Issaquah, Wash. Egghead Discount Software stores sell both TurboTax and MacInTax. But Kist said it’s too soon to tell how they will sell this year.

Softview doesn’t claim that MacInTax is a replacement for a sharp accountant who can suggest tax-saving strategies and advise taxpayers on what kinds of deductions are legitimate or risky. “I still believe that people who do not know how to do their taxes should not buy MacInTax,” Lane said. “We don’t teach people to do their taxes.”

But the software helps people who do their own taxes by putting simulated tax forms on the computer screen. The program automatically figures out all the math on the form--subtracting deductions from income, for instance--and calculates tax payments according to the figures entered by the user. The software also provides computerized work sheets that help calculate line items on various tax forms, such as medical expenses or personal investments.

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Windows software seems to be the hottest new market in personal computers. Sales of Windows-based software in the U.S. and Canada grew about 213% to about $107 million in the three months that ended Sept. 30, according to the Software Publishers Assn. in Washington, D.C. In comparison, sales of software for regular IBM-style computers grew about 32%.

Earlier versions of Windows were full of glitches and the program didn’t take hold until the Windows 3.0 version was first sold last spring.


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