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QuickBase success speeding Intuit's move to SaaS

Launched in 2001 but making some noise for the company at last

By Eric Lai
August 22, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Besides Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., no software vendor is in a position to be more threatened by the increasing popularity of software as a service (SaaS) than Intuit Inc.

The Mountain View, Calif., company had $2.3 billion in sales in 2006, its most recent fiscal year -- virtually all from sales of desktop software.

Since then, however, Intuit has gotten the SaaS religion. Last November, Intuit paid $1.35 billion to acquire Digital Insight Corp., an online banking service provider.

Last week, Intuit said it plans to release an online version of its personal finance software, Quicken. The company is currently signing up beta users.

That will complement Intuit's QuickBooks Online Edition, a Web-hosted version of its small business accounting software.

"[Chairman and founder] Scott Cook and [CEO] Steve Bennett are really fired up about SaaS," said Bill Lucchini, general manager of Intuit's longtime QuickBase Web collaboration service.

QuickBase lets companies host their data and manipulate it using one of several hundred collaborative applications -- from spreadsheets to project managers and CRM -- that can be customized by nonprogrammers.

Launched in 2001, QuickBase is a pure SaaS application that leads its market niche. But until recently, QuickBase was considered so insignificant to Intuit's business that it merited only a single, brief mention in its 2006 annual report (PDF format).

That attitude has changed, according to Lucchini, who took over in early January, and is helping to reinvigorate QuickBase.

The number of QuickBase users grew 126% in the 12 months ending July 30 to 225,000. Excluding the 33,000 users that are Intuit employees and business partners, there are now 170,000 paying subscribers to QuickBase, said Lucchini.

More numbers could be announced on Wednesday, when Intuit reveals its fiscal year 2007 sales.

Traditionally adopted by corporate workgroups looking for a cheap, easy tool to use with outside business partners, QuickBase now includes security and access control features such as LDAP integration and a management console.

They are turning IT departments, which might have once merely tolerated QuickBase's presence inside their firewalls, into fans and buyers, Lucchini said.

There are now 12 companies with more than 2,000 users of QuickBase, including one firm, Affinity Health System, with 6,000 users. That's up from just one 2,000-plus seat corporate customer a year ago, Lucchini said.

Intuit Chairman Cook "thinks QuickBase could be the fourth big brand at Intuit behind Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax," claimed Lucchini. "He sees the space as being that big."

That's in part because QuickBase doesn't cannibalize any other part of Intuit's business.

"You wouldn't believe how unhandcuffed I feel," Lucchini, a 13-year veteran of Intuit who has worked in the QuickBooks division, said.

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