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QuickBooks Makes its Debut on the Web

Confident of creating its own niche in the application service provider marketplace, Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) Monday (Dec 4) introduced QuickBooks for the Web to help small businesses automate their operations more easily and quickly.

In its announcement, Intuit touted the control and usability of its product. No accounting experience or knowledge is required and setup is very easy for even the most novice of users, according to Intuit. With a three-step "startup interview," QuickBooks is up and running in about 10 minutes. The product also contains many customizable features that make it attractive to small businesses, according to Scott Cook, Intuit founder and chairman.

QuickBooks on the web lets businesses manage their financial operations more efficiently, thus allowing more time to concentrate on their core functions and mission-critical applications, according to Intuit.

"Our goal is to provide small businesses with the essential tools they need in the new economy. QuickBooks software led the first revolution for small businesses accounting. We believe QuickBooks for the Web, with its drop-dead ease-of-use features, will lead the second revolution," Cook said.

Pricing, Availability and Requirements
The basic edition of QuickBooks for the Web costs $14.95 per month, per company for up to 20 users. The price includes premium technical support and 50 faxes per month for charter users, and a 30-day free trial is available for a limited time.

QuickBooks can be accessed through any Windows-compatible computer with an Internet-capable browser, although the company recommends a persistent high-speed connection through a cable modem, T1 or DSL and Internet Explorer 5.0. No additional software installation is necessary.

As additional features become available, current customers will have access to them, Intuit said. Optional services, including extra faxes, may require additional subscription or service fees.

QuickBooks not a quick solution?
On the heels of Intuit's announcement, rival NetLedger Inc. claims its product offering contains more extensive features and improved functionality than its new online competitor.

Intuit debuted QuickBooks on the promise that it delivers revolutionary easy-to-use services and enables small businesses to work remotely with co-owners, employees or accountants. Not so, says Evan Goldberg, founder, president and CEO of NetLedger, which has released five versions of its own software since its launch in August 1999.

"Intuit has missed a huge opportunity to deliver on the promise of web-based services to their existing QuickBooks customers, because their web-based solution is not only limited to very simple accounting, but also is incompatible with the shrink-wrap QuickBooks that their customers are using," Goldberg said. "You cannot migrate from QuickBooks 2000 to QuickBooks for the Web, although you can migrate from QuickBooks 2000 to NetLedger."

NetLedger recently unveiled version 5.0 of its web-based accounting software, which Goldberg believes is head and shoulders above what Intuit is offering.

"What small businesses want in the age of the Internet is a unified system that connects employees, customers and suppliers to all aspects of their business. QuickBooks users can get this today by upgrading to NetLedger. Intuit's very limited web-based offering is just scratching the surface of what is possible and it will be years before they can deliver what small businesses really need," Goldberg said.

The monthly fee is $4.95 per user with one free seat access provided for the subscriber's accountant. The newest version allows users to build an online store, an additional feature which costs $49.95 per month for an unlimited number of