Conventional wisdom is that Intuit's acquisition of the personal finance Web service Mint will mean the end of the line for the company's standalone software app, Quicken. Upstart Mint, which is being acquired by Intuit for $170 million, has a personal finance product more in line with the times, with a younger demographic, a working business model, and a passionate CEO, Aaron Patzer, who's slated to take over the Quicken product line at Intuit once the acquisition closes. It doesn't look good for the old desktop app, Quicken.
It's a shame that we think of Quicken that way, but it's Intuit's own fault that we've gotten here. The product, according to Intuit legend, started at founder Scott Cook's kitchen table in 1983 as he watched his wife struggle with paying bills. The original Quicken, little more than an DOS-based checkbook and register, over time became an ambitious personal finance suite that handled budgeting, retirement planning, loans, public equities and employee stock options. It became more capable but also more complex, harder to use, and much harder to get started with.
More importantly, as Julie Miller, director of corporate communications for the consumer group at Intuit told me, "Quicken made its way through the organization. We shuffled the Quicken business around. That had a direct effect on the quality of the product." You can see the effect on CNET's own reviews. Users hate Quicken. Few products have user reviews scores as low: none of the variations of of Quicken from recent years have user reviews garnering more than 1 and a half stars out of 5. (Our official reviews score the products higher.)
Another reason that Quicken suffered: Intuit shifted its focus away from the flagship product to new moneymakers, in particular its small-business product, QuickBooks, and its tax software and service, TurboTax. As Miller says, "There were decisions made over time that had the unintended consequence of putting the Quicken business where it was starved for focus and resources."
Finally, though, the light began to dawn at Intuit. Miller: "Our thinking was too limited. We weren't thinking beyond the desktop solution. The way we grow this, we realized, was to look for acquisitions."
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