Intuit opens its QuickBase platform to developers; Plans to get SaaSy

Intuit on Thursday will open its QuickBase platform to third party developers with the aim of creating a software as a service business that will launch this summer.QuickBase is a Web tool used by half of the Fortune 100 to collaborate, manage projects and customer data.

Intuit on Thursday will open its QuickBase platform to third party developers with the aim of creating a software as a service business that will launch this summer.

QuickBase is a Web tool used by half of the Fortune 100 to collaborate, manage projects and customer data. Typically, QuickBase is used in divisions within larger companies, much like Salesforce.com is used at large companies.

By launching the QuickBase Developer Program, which kicks off a beta, Intuit is hoping to create a "general purpose SaaS platform" for small businesses, according to Bill Lucchini, vice president and general manager of Intuit QuickBase. For now, Intuit's SaaS platform is a developer story. This summer, QuickBase and QuickBooks users, which come from small companies, large companies and everything in between, will see SaaS offerings integrated with QuickBooks. Developers will control the pricing of applications.

The task for Intuit (all resources) is relatively simple: Leverage the 25 million employees in businesses using QuickBooks on the desktop and online, loop in its 75,000 developers and create a relevant platform. The rub: Everyone--Salesforce.com, Google, Amazon and others-- has a cloud or SaaS platform these days. Intuit aims to get some developer momentum by packaging customer billing, allowing third parties to set pricing so they can make some dough and dangling the potential of landing millions of customers. Intuit will charge developers only for the computing resources their applications use.

Underpinning the QuickBase Developer Program is the following technology (see Webware for more):

  • Integrated data management. Intuit's SaaS apps will be synchronized with the QuickBase platform and allow customers to use log-ins, permissions management, database hosting and reporting tools.
  • Adobe Flex is the language of choice for Intuit's SaaS effort. Lucchini said that Flex gives end users a nice interface and is cross browser and works on any operating system. The Eclipse IDE integrates Flex and QuickBase data.
  • These third party apps will have QuickBooks hooks built in and synchronize with their existing applications.

Will this effort work? The details so far are lacking from a customer perspective. For instance, I would have liked to see a few third party apps in testing and more on what the customer will actually see. But I wouldn't rule Intuit out by any stretch. For starters, QuickBooks is essentially the ERP platform for small businesses and a lot of mid-tier ones. And Intuit quietly goes about its business and already has a good ecosystem going. Intuit's SaaS effort is partially about playing defense--it doesn't want Salesforce.com usurping QuickBooks--but it can play offense too (only without all the bluster).