Microsoft is partnering with rival Intuit with the shared goal of getting more developers to write cloud-hosted applications targeted at small businesses.
The pair announced they're releasing a beta of a new software development kit (SDK) for Azure, and that Intuit will be recommending to its partners and customers Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud operating system as a "preferred platform" for hosted small-business applications. The SDK is a set of tools, code samples and services aimed at enabling Azure-hosted apps to federate them with Intuit's Partner Platform (IPP) and sell them in Intuit's App Center marketplace. The final Version 1 of the SDK is slated for February 2010.
By the end of calendar 2010, Intuit also will be offering its developers and customers access to Microsoft's hosted suite of business applications -- known as the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), consisting of SharePoint Online, Communications Online, Exchange Online, and Office Live Meeting -- via the Intuit App Center portal.
Today's announcement isn't about Intuit hosting any of its own apps/services or its Partner Platform in Microsoft's Azure cloud. Intuit plans to continue to do its own hosting for its Partner Platform or its App Center small-business app store, Intuit officials confirmed. And Intuit is not attempting to restrict small-business app developers to Azure.
"Last summer, we realized we needed to be more open (with the Partner Portal)," said Bill Lucchini, Vice President and General Manager of Intuit’s Platform as a Service Group. Intuit developers "can build anywhere they want, but Azure is where we are recommending developers build" and host.
The new Intuit-Microsoft partnership comes at a time when some of Microsoft's small-business customers are unsure about Redmond's commitment to the small-business market. I've heard from a couple of readers that Microsoft's decision to drop its Office Accounting products and services, announced last fall, have made them wary of betting on Microsoft.
Microsoft officials have attributed that decision to lack of traction with the product, but have said the small/mid-size market remains critically important to Microsoft.
"Customers don't want a one-point small-business solution. They want a whole suite," said Walid Abu-Hadba, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Developer & Platform Evangelism. He said that this kind of partnership with Intuit was an example of how Microsoft plans to address the needs of small-business developers and customers.