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Intuit digs deeper into small businesses

A simplified version of the QuickBooks application will target sole proprietors and other small firms that use basic accounting methods.

Financial software and services company Intuit is set to expand its small-business push on Tuesday, with a new light-duty version of its QuickBooks accounting application.

QuickBooks Simple Start, to be announced Tuesday for release Oct. 4, will be aimed at the estimated 9 million small businesses in the United States that don't use any type of accounting software, said Gary Sulentic, senior brand manager at Intuit.

"They're using paper ledgers or Excel documents to manage their finances," he said. "They feel QuickBooks is just too much for them. It's too complicated to learn; it's got more functions than they need."

QuickBooks has become the cornerstone product of Intuit, as the company has increasingly focused on small and midsize businesses. Its recent efforts to expand its presence in the market have focused on offering QuickBooks packages tailored to specific business segments, such as real estate and .

But there's also an untapped market in the smallest businesses, particularly sole proprietorships, which often rely on ad hoc ways of organizing finances, Sulentic said. "These are people who don't want an accounting solution," he said. "They want to send out invoices, pay the bills--basic stuff."

For now, Simple Start won't even offer access to online banking--a key element of other Intuit products--as the company presumes that most of its potential customers won't be interested in that. "This is for people who are using manual methods now," Sulentic said.

Simple Start will use the same database format as other QuickBooks packages, Sulentic said, so customers can easily share data with accountants and transfer accounts when they're ready to step up to a more complex version of the program.

Simple Start will be available as a boxed product priced at $100 and as an online service priced at $100 for the first year and $10 a month thereafter.