Quicken, the top-selling personal finance application, is a mainstay product for home computer users.
"If Apple drops prices and goes after the consumer market, not having a fresh product from Intuit really hurts them," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies in San Jose, Calif.
"This is a definite setback" for Apple's plans to expand its consumer push this Christmas season, said James Staten, an analyst at Dataquest, a San Jose, Calif., market researcher.
However, he added, the decision, while a public relations nightmare, should not hurt Apple's (AAPL) growth in its core publishing and education markets.
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Intuit (INTU), of Mountain View, Calif., said three years of declining sales in the Mac version left it with little choice but to not update the program this fall.
Mac users pointed online
But Intuit also announced that it has assigned its Mac engineers to develop expanded personal finance capabilities on the Internet, which can be accessed by Mac users with Quicken 98.
"Unfortunately, most people have viewed this as us getting out of the Quicken business for the Mac. That's not it at all," said Steve Grey, Intuit's product manager for Quicken products.
He said also that Intuit is in discussions with Apple on efforts to develop Macintosh-specific content for visitors to Quicken.com.
However, for the interim, no special content will be made available for Macintosh users, he said.
Intuit also held open the possibility that a new Quicken product could be forthcoming if Apple can grow its Macintosh installed base again.
Sales will last as long as demand
Intuit said it will continue to sell Quicken 98 "for as long as Mac customers demand it," according to the company.
The company will continue to develop MacInTax.
Ironically, Apple board member William Campbell is chief executive officer of Intuit.
According to market researcher PC Data, Intuit sold 209,103 copies of Quicken for the Macintosh in 1995. That number had fallen to 133,160 last year. By contrast, 1.5 million units of Quicken for Windows 95 were sold.
Intuit reflects larger market
Intuit is not the only Macintosh developer reporting disappointing sales. Publishing software developer Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) said first-quarter Mac revenue was down 36 percent, while Windows sales jumped 18 percent over the first quarter of 1997.
Now 41 percent of the company's application sales come from Mac products, versus 56 percent in the first quarter of 1997.
Sagging Mac program sales also hurt financial results this year at Macromedia Inc. and Global Village Inc.
But the company's largest software supporter, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), recently announced it was stepping up its investment in Macintosh products, pledging to release new versions of Microsoft Office on both platforms simultaneously. And the Macintosh version of Office contains several features not available to users of the Windows 95 product.
Mac users glum
Macintosh users did not react well to the news on ZDNN's TalkBack feature.
"It's all over now but the shouting for general consumer interest in the Mac platform. Very sad indeed," wrote Leo Kennedy.
"OK, this seals it. I'm ditching my Mac and getting a PC," said John Kozel.
But to John Youngman, it looked like a natural consequence of Apple's decision to focus on core markets.
"Surprised? Apple has correctly focused on their core market -- publishing/advertising -- with new products and energy. How can anyone be surprised when a finance/small business application doesn't sell well to this target audience? Would you keep investing in a product that doesn't return a reasonable profit?"
Calls to Apple and several large software developers were not returned before posting time.