A quick talk with Scott Cook, Intuit's co-founder and chief booth babe

Financial software maker is attacking both online and offline money management.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

Scott Cook demos new TurboTax for Mac at MacWorld. Rafe Needleman/CBS Interactive

I spied Scott Cook, a founder and former CEO of Intuit, which makes Quicken and Quickbooks, at his company's Macworld booth, giving demos just like any booth worker.

That's curious--you don't see big company billionaires mingling with consumers in a frenzied trade show environment too often (although you should). So I snared him for a quick interview about his booth duty and the plans for Intuit overall.

Regarding hanging out with The People, Cook simply said that it's a great way to get customers to talk to him for free (versus paid surveys, I assume) and that it's good to hear what you are doing wrong (as a Quicken for Windows user, I could give have given him an earful, but time was short). He also likes to see how his team presents to customers.

On Intuit's overall strategy, Cook says Intuit is pursuing a strategy based around online and mobile access to financial data. U.S. consumers spend $7 billion a year in overdraft fees, he says, and there's no excuse for that when your phone could alert you when you're about to overextend yourself. Thus: Quicken Beam, Quicken Online (which recently got a refresh), and an online version of the small business app Quickbooks. There's also an online version of TurboTax, which will compute and file your federal taxes for free. State returns are extra, though.

Quicken Mobile gives you quick visibility in your basic financial position. Rafe Needleman/CBS Interactive

At the same time, Intuit seems to be renewing its commitment to standalone apps, or at least to the Mac.

Quicken for Mac is being retired in favor of a newly built financial management app called Financial Life, now in a very early public beta. It looks, at first glance, like a nicely designed version of Quicken, simpler to get in to than the company's traditional software. (On Windows, Quicken 2009 looks like a typical upgrade for Intuit from Quicken 2008: a few new features, but according to user reviews, lacking needed reliability improvements.)

Yet despite Cook's mission to offer holistic financial suites for its users, Intuit is not yet delivering on integration between its products. For example, if you use Quicken Mobile to update your Quicken Online account, that data won't make it into your Quicken software installation on your personal computer. And data files cannot be shared between Mac and Windows installations.