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It's the Platform, Stupid
Dec 09, 1996 :: Michael Sippey

Intuit should kiss Quicken goodbye. Not because it's not a great, easy-to-use, utterly indispensable product. But because in the grand scheme of things (a.k.a. Intuit's income statement), it's going to be irrelevant.

There are approximately 10 million users (not installations -- actual users). And over the past six or seven years, Intuit has turned these personal finance junkies into perpetual revenue streams by selling tax software, check supplies, and online services like stock quotes, news stories and mutual fund information.

But like everyone else in the Valley and points north, Intuit isn't in the software business anymore. It's in the platform business.

OpenExchange is Intuit's attempt to create "a unified framework" for "a comprehensive approach to financial data exchange." With OpenExchange, Intuit has left the down-to-earth business of software development and entered the rareified air of platform building. It's no surprise, really; they're following an obvious strategy. Leverage those 10 million Quicken users into the market power to determine the way banks, brokerage firms, insurance providers, mutual fund families, corporations and consumers communicate financial information. Intuit is planning on having basic OpenExchange connectivity built into Quicken by early next year. All that's needed is the other half of the equation: the server side.

Intuit definitely has its work cut out for it. Standards are tough things to dictate, even with 10 million users and a commanding market share. And for Intuit, it's a completely different type of development and marketing activity than they're used to. Instead of the usual "define, design, build, test, ship, rinse, repeat" cycle of software development, they'll be focused on the nebulous activity of creating partnerships and "synergy." Intuit is famous for following new Quicken customers home from CompUSA to watch them install the software; will they be able to follow financial services IS types back to the boardroom to see how easy it is for them to sell the concept to their net-phobic bosses?



Other pieces about server-side software: