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Intuit unveils exchange for small businesses

The maker of financial software for personal and small-business use announces the launch of an Internet-based shopping site for its small-business customers.

Intuit, maker of financial software for personal and small-business use, announced today the launch of an Internet-based shopping site for its small-business customers.

The site will sell goods ranging from computer equipment to office supplies, from vendors including Office Depot, Gateway and Ralph's Electronics, at discounts of up to 40 percent.

Intuit, based in Mountain View, Calif., created the online marketplace in partnership with New York-based Metiom, formerly called Intelisys Electronic Commerce. The companies will make money by charging commissions on the transactions.

In launching the site, dubbed QuickBooks Shopping Source, Intuit and Metiom are moving into an already crowded field of business-to-business e-commerce that has fallen from investor favor in recent months.

Competitors in the industry include Verticalnet, whose stock has fallen 40 percent this year, and PurchasePro.com, whose shares are down 52 percent for the year. Yahoo, America Online and eBay also operate business-to-business e-commerce sites, as do some pre-public start-ups such as EqualFooting.com.

Intuit holds the advantage, however, of a ready-made group of customers. According to the companies' press release, QuickBook users spend a total of $500 billion each year on business goods.

"Suppliers are eager to reach the small-business market," Intuit vice president Dan Nye said in a statement. "With the QuickBooks Shopping Source, suppliers can easily reach a large base of small businesses rather than try to build a community piece by piece."