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Intuit getting into the hosted app business

Intuit's QuickBase Developer Program takes a page from

Intuit is announcing today its entry into the growing app platform market. Like Salesforce has done, Intuit's new QuickBase Developer Program will let developers create and sell add-on Web apps that tap into the company's core product: QuickBooks. And like Salesforce, Intuit will market these third-party apps directly to its customers via a promotional channel in the core app. Intuit will go after the small-business market with the program, leaving the enterprise space for Salesforce--even though both companies have customers in the other's main market.

Intuit claims an addressable market of 3.6 million companies that use QuickBooks.

Other players in this space include Google and Amazon. However, their platforms don't come with large audiences of customers already familiar with their back-office business apps.

The QuickBase Developer Program has important elements. First, it gives the Intuit Web database access to data from customers' QuickBooks installations. Most of Intuit's business customers use the QuickBooks installed software, not the online version. The QDP is for Web apps, though: It links apps to data resident on customers' PCs.

A Flash app accessing QuickBooks data, thanks to QDP

QDP apps will be presented in Flex, which has the big advantage of running everywhere (and making it easy to create very pretty applications). However, since QDP apps are targeted primarily at QuickBooks users, and nearly all of them are on Windows, the cross-platform angle isn't that important. The fact that there are a lot of Flex developers is, though.

One of the QDP's slickest pieces is financial. Intuit will handle the billing for QDP apps on the part of developers. That saves them from having to hassle with collecting from their customers. Also, resources for QDP apps, all of which will be hosted by Intuit, will be charged for in a pay-as-you-go system, like Amazon Web Services. That makes QDP apps economically scalable.

The program goes into limited beta on Thursday. Version 1 should open up to all developers this summer.