Considering CloudAve’s core thesis is the move to cloud computing, and given this authors penchant for cloud applications, one would have thought any development in the desktop software space would be dismissed. The truth is somewhat different however. I’m a major user of web apps but I’ve also got installed software on my machines – a tip of the hat to the fact that, in my neck of the woods anyway, ubiquitous and decent internet connectivity is still some way off.

I actually believe there is an opportunity for the incumbent on-premises vendors to make some smart moves in the software+services line. Microsoft have long declared their intention in that direction with Office and, despite missed starts and a fair amount of FUD, it’s a logical approach.

The accounting software space is really interesting. On one side of the fence are the “big three” on premises vendors – Sage, Intuit and MYOB (disclosure – the Intuit partner Platform is a client) while on the other side are a myriad of SaaS accounting products.

In a telling move that indicates their intentions then, Intuit this week announced that the new versions of QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier 2010 will have out of the box accessibility to the Intuit App Centre, an application store where users can mix and match offerings already integrated with the desktop products – users can click a button within the application to be taken to the app store. Applications within the store plug directly into the desktop software and use the financial data there.

There are both third party and Intuit developed applications live on the store. At the moment it’s a somewhat limited choice (some application details below) but Intuit is betting that they’re creating a compelling offering for small businesses and that these users will take to a business centric app store the way consumers have taken to Apple’s consumer-centric one.

The Intuit Partner Platform has already signed up 90000 developers – this is an indication of the work that is going on behind the scenes to create applications – over the coming months the app store should see the fruit borne of that work.

Interestingly the application store isn’t the only web enabled feature of the new versions of the software. Also available are a few features leveraging connectivity;

  • Users can scan and upload documents to an online document repository
  • Checks can be scanned and emailed to banks for processing
  • Email marketing campaigns can be run from the “Marketing Centre”

I’ve included below a breakdown of both third party and Intuit’s own standalone web applications as detailed on the press release. As I said before it’s currently a reasonably limited selection, but given the fact that QuickBooks is used by four million businesses, it is natural to assume that the number of offerings will increase quickly.

Third party apps

  • Fuel Station – Track and manage marketing campaigns and sales leads while synchronizing customer information with QuickBooks 2009 and 2010.
  • Central Desktop – Share files, create wiki pages and more in minutes! Anywhere Anytime.
  • Pixily – Simplified paper and digital document management and document scanning. Automatically look-up clients’ and vendors’ email addresses from Quickbooks 2009 or 2010 contacts.
  • Dimdim helps you set up a web conference or deliver synchronized live presentations, whiteboards and web pages while sharing your voice and video online.
  • Rypple helps your employees learn and execute faster by getting honest feedback from colleagues, clients, and advisers.
  • VerticalResponse for Intuit® Workplace – Create, launch, and track professional emails, newsletters, postcards and more. And, if you have QuickBooks 2009 or 2010, you can directly import your customer contacts.

Intuit apps

  • Intuit Green Snapshot – gives you recommendations on how to save money by reducing your carbon footprint and lets you share progress with your customers.  And since it’s based on your QuickBooks data, there’s no extra work for you.
  • HR System Monitor – lets you keep track of employee records and lets employees to view important company information. Update – HR System monitor is not, in fact, an in-house Intuit app – sorry for any confusion caused
  • ViewMyPaycheck Beta – gives employees of Small Businesses easy access to payroll information.

All of this is, of course, even more interesting given the fact that Intuit is purchasing personal finance application Mint. I posted awhile ago about the business facing opportunities from that deal – the app centre is the logical place to see some of those developments occur.

Whether or not we see a business focused Mint on the app centre, plays like this are the way of the future and, if one believes the hype, the way for traditional software vendors to ensure their survival.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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