Hosted Apps: No Longer Fashionable. It’s A Necessity. How Software Companies Are Meeting the Demand

In the business of software for growing businesses there are three leading companies:
Microsoft, which makes Microsoft office and owns the PC operating system and office suite space (see our recent interview with Microsoft’s SMB Ombudsman)
Intuit, which is the leading provider of financial management solutions and is expanding into more employee management solutions (beyond payroll)
Google, which is competing head on with Microsoft for communication, collaboration and office suite solutions (Read about’s switch to Google Apps here)
For office suites and collaboration, Microsoft and Google are in a battle – PC desktop vs web based software.
For financial and employee management solutions for small businesses, Intuit’s a clear leader.
Traditionally, Intuit has been largely a software company, creating Quicken (thanks Scott Cook), QuickBooks and TurboTax. QuickBooks is the defacto software that businesses have on their computers and live inside of, besides their email and web browser.
However, over the past few years, and this year in particular, Intuit is seeing a big shift in its customers (consumers and business owners) shifting away from traditional software to using hosted applications, in particular Quick Books Online, for business customers.

intuit’s customers, which in many ways are a barometer of all things small business, are adopting hosted application in big numbers – moving away from using traditional software.
With more than 170,000 paying customers and 500,000 total customers, if you include the free customers, it’s clear that growing businesses see hosted applications as a smart investment.
In the case of QuickBooks online, Intuit’s found that being able to save time, make money (including managing it) and have instant access to their financial data from any web browser (smartphone or computer) is a big selling point for business owners to use QBO.
With this in mind Intuit is transforming itself from a provider of traditional software to providing its services through a web browser, no software to install AND more importantly continuing to aggressively invest in the further development of its software as a service offerings, such as QuickBooks Online.
This investment includes:

  • Tripling the engineering investment, so that releases are every 4-6 weeks
  • Building online software with customer service in mind, not as an afterthought (not merely taking a traditional software product and making it “hosted”)
  • Built for Remote Usage – Thinking beyond just the web – going mobile
  • An Open Ecosystem – QuickBooks Online will be an open platform with data and services available through the Intuit Partner Platform

In this new update to QuickBooks online, you’ll find Intuit has moved away from just taking a QuickBooks (software) interface and shoving it onto a web browser. This new version of QBO has a much slicker and simpler (yet still intuitive) interface.
With this simplicity, you’ll find more powerful tools for analyzing the financial data of your company to see useful information in the form of charts, graphs and snapshots to help you make informed decisions.
The trends part of QBO is a nice touch, and enables you to see how you are doing, compared to other businesses in your industry.
These are just two of the many enhancements to QBO.
If you’re wondering if now is the time to jump into hosted applications, now is the time.
Software vendors, such as Intuit, have been building hosted applications for the past several years.
However, with the trilogy of 1) mobility (thanks to the iPhone, now iPad), 2) hosted applications and 3) the necessity to do more with less – software vendors are even MORE aggressive in their push to not just churn out hosted applications (software as a service), but to provide the support and quality of product necessary to enable small businesses, like ourselves, to leverage these tools even better than before.