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IDG News Service - Users of the online version of Intuit's popular QuickBooks small-business accounting software may find their workdays becoming a bit easier to manage, thanks to a new user interface and mobile application support.
Intuit has completed a "complete relaunch and rebuild" of QuickBooks Online's look and feel, said Daniel Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of small business financial solutions.
QuickBooks has about 4.5 million users around the world, with 500,000 using the online edition and the rest running the desktop version, Wernikoff said.
Intuit launched the online product about 10 years ago but only started getting serious traction for it recently. "What we saw with customers is they weren't ready for online then," he said.
But the momentum has shifted radically in the other direction. While three or four years ago only about 5 percent of new customers were choosing the online version, Intuit expects online to account for more than half of new purchases by the end of the year, Wernikoff said.
The uptick is likely being boosted by new features introduced last year that allowed the online version to be configured to support a wide variety of tax regulations and languages. As a result, QuickBooks Online is now being used by customers in more than 100 countries.
The update announced Monday seems to bring QuickBooks beyond pure accounting and into the realm of CRM (customer relationship management).
New mobile applications for iOS and Android devices allow users to pull up data while in the field, such as the complete financial history of dealings with a particular customer. Transactions conducted through the mobile applications get synchronized back to the customer's QuickBooks Online account.
Also on tap in the new release is better integration for the online product with third-party applications. "The problem has been that when we visit small businesses, most are using 10 applications and most of them aren't provided by us," Wernikoff said.
Intuit has also tried to make it easier for less computer-savvy business owners to get started quickly with the application.
When a new customer logs into QuickBooks Online for the first time, they are presented with a wizard-like interface that asks them questions about the industry they're in, how they prefer to be paid and other matters. The application's look and feel is automatically configured, based on those responses and on the way customers in similar industries have set up their systems.
As QuickBooks Online grows more popular, the user base may end up including more and more customers who once used the desktop version. Intuit's sunset policy, which essentially forces customers to repurchase the software every few years unless they don't want support or the use of add-on extensions, is a long-standing gripe among QuickBooks users.
"All desktop companies have a sunset policy," Wernikoff said. However, he acknowledged Intuit has a "good chunk of desktop customers who get frustrated by that requirement."
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com