Intuit to open QuickBooks to developers

Intuit has unveiled an initiative that could make it easier for small companies to find software applications geared towards their specific type of business that work with QuickBooks, Intuit's widely used accounting software.

Intuit has unveiled an initiative that could make it easier for small companies to find software applications geared towards their specific type of business that work with QuickBooks, Intuit's widely used accounting software.

As part of the effort, Intuit will publish some of the APIs (application programming interfaces) for QuickBooks, allowing third-party software developers to write specialised applications that can be tightly coupled with its product. The idea is to boost efficiency for smaller businesses by allowing them to use, for example, an application for booking reservations that will be able to exchange data easily with QuickBooks.

Intuit also announced the Intuit Developer Network, an online forum where developers will be able to access the APIs, and which also provides a channel through which they can market their applications to businesses. Developers will be able to list their applications at the site by category, and business users will be able to go there and search for the programs they need.

"It works like eBay, to create an economy where millions of small businesses can go to find applications," says Scott Cook, an Intuit cofounder and chairman of the company's executive committee.

To kickstart the developer network, Intuit announced that it has acquired Apps.com, a privately-held company based in Massachusetts which offers a directory where small businesses can find applications and ASPs (application service providers). Intuit says the acquisition, which was completed in December, gives it access to a large field of developers who might be interested in using its APIs.

While membership to the Intuit Developer Network is free today, Intuit expects eventually to charge developers about $US1000 a year to use Intuit's APIs and market their applications there, says Esther Kruijver, director of the Intuit Developer Network.

A draft specification for the QuickBooks APIs is now available on the developer site at http://developer.intuit.com/. The final APIs won't be available until the next version of QuickBooks is released. Intuit hasn't said exactly when that will be, but based on its past upgrade cycle the release is likely to come by the end of the year, Kruijver says.

In the meantime, Intuit released APIs for two other products: QuickBooks Site Solutions, a tool for creating and managing web sites, and QuickBase, Intuit's online shared database service. The Site Solutions API allows developers to write applications that can be modified easily to match the look-and-feel of a customer's own Web site, Intuit says. The QuickBase API will allow developers to build applications that access Intuit's database using the same user interface and workflow elements, the company says.

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