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Intuit makes SaaS play, heads for Salesforce.com turf

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17th Sep 2008
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Moving beyond accounting and bookkeeping solutions, Intuit has announced it is to enter the software as a service arena. With field service and inventory management applications and a beta release of a sales management application all launching next month, can it present a challenge to the likes of Salesforce.com?

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

Intuit has its eyes set on the software as a service (SaaS) market dominated by Salesforce.com, a move that will also take it into head on competition with Microsoft eventually.

At its user conference in Dallas, the company – best known for its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions accounting and business management software - announced a roadmap that boasted the Intuit Enterprise Suite, a set of on-demand applications that will link to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. "We want to have solutions that go significantly beyond accounting and bookkeeping," said Angus Thomson, vice president and general manager of Intuit's mid-market group, who added that the applications are being adapted to work with QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions that will provide a single workplace view of the applications.

"We want to have solutions that go significantly beyond accounting and bookkeeping."

Angus Thomson, vice president and general manager, Intuit's mid-market group

Field service and inventory management applications will be generally available next month and a beta release of the sales management application will debut at the same time. Intuit's channel partners and direct salesforce will both sell the on-demand applications. For the new on-demand applications Intuit will pay channel partners 15% of ongoing subscription fees for deals they close. "We're making a commitment to the channel this year that's more significant than in the past," Thomson said.

The firm is also enabling developers and independent software vendors to build online applications on its partner platform to create its own ecosystem – a strategy already in place at SaaS leaders such as Salesforce.com with its Force.com platform.

According to Intuit, its platform-as-a-service offering allows developers to combine the open source Flex framework and Adobe Systems Inc's FlexBuilder with Intuit QuickBase to build Internet applications that work with QuickBooks data. “We have now accepted more than 1,000 developers into the program and it is exciting to hear their ideas and energy about what they want to build,” said Alex Chriss, business leader for the Intuit Partner Platform. “Customers will benefit greatly from the imagination and expertise that developers use to solve problems facing their specific industries.”

Pursuing more connected services

Boomi On Demand will provide the integration service, allowing applications built on the Intuit platform to connect to and synchronise data with QuickBooks desktop installations completely online with no development or system configuration required by end users. "Integration is a tricky problem," said Bill Lucchini, vice president and general manager for Intuit's Platform as a Service Group, while Bob Moul, Boomi's president and CEO, added: “Boomi continues to power SaaS adoption by removing the integration challenge, and we're excited to partner with Intuit to deliver that same advantage to developers and customers."

"We’ll be more focused on delivering the kind of connected services that have been driving our growth for the past few years."

Brad Smith, CEO, Intuit

Vindicia's CashBox offering will provide the online billing infrastructure to enable the implementation of multiple subscription pricing models for developer applications, provide commuication templates to drive end-user renewals and retention, and offer reporting functionality across a wide variety of business metrics.

The strategy is in line with overall Intuit goals to pursue more connected services. “We remain focused on continuing to deliver easy-to-use products and services that our customers love because they help them be more successful and are a better value than any competitive alternatives. This value proposition resonates in any macroeconomic situation,” said CEO Brad Smith recently.

“We’ll be more focused on delivering the kind of connected services that have been driving our growth for the past few years. Connected services now represent over half of the company’s revenue and will be even more critical to driving growth as we look ahead. For example, in fiscal year ‘09 we expect to see: TurboTax Online continue to be the key growth driver in Consumer Tax; in Small Business, Homestead’s Web hosting services, QuickBooks Online.

“The support and new connected services associated with the QuickBooks product lineup will drive increased growth in the QuickBooks segment; our Assisted Payroll Service and new standalone Online Payroll offering, coupled with our expanding Payments services, including check verification and ACH, will drive accelerated growth in the Payroll and Payments segment; and our Financial Institutions online banking platform get a boost from the FinanceWorks offering coming in the fall and the small business services due in December.”

Intuit last month reported a wider loss in its seasonally weak fourth quarter, which ended July 31. The company had a fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $61.9 million, compared with a loss of $13.6 million a year earlier on revenue that rose 11% to $478 million. (Intuit typically loses money in its fourth and first quarters which it then balances out in the other two quarters).

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By Paglo
18th Sep 2008 17:43

It’s good to see the discussion of SaaS being broadened. It is interesting to note that the majority of the movement in SaaS continues to be by companies that are focused on either the front or back office, so it is refreshing to see Intuit starting to think more broadly about where they can add value.

For example, there is precious little being said by the major players in the infrastructure, operations management, and security categories (e.g. HP, BMC, CA, and IBM). It appears that the greatest opportunity for massive market disruption will come from companies delivering SaaS offerings for IT and Operations management. Businesses have been hurt by massive enterprise software implementation failures and are generally fatigued by the lack of innovation that is taking place by the traditional vendors.

Brian de Haaff
www.Paglo.com

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