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Intuit challenges Microsoft study

When Microsoft released research claiming that 50 percent of all Quicken users would switch to its Money 98, rival Intuit decided to fight fire with fire.

Call it retaliation through research.

When Microsoft released research findings in December claiming that 50 percent of all Quicken users would switch to its Money 98 Financial Suite, rival software manufacturer Intuit, which develops Quicken, decided to fight fire with fire.

Intuit today released its own set of findings, compiled by two independent research firms, in an attempt to reaffirm their market dominance in finance software.

The first shot over the bow: A study conducted by NFO Research. Commissioned by Intuit, the study found that 99 percent of pre-1998 Quicken users have not switched to Money 98. It found also that 94.6 percent of customers purchasing a 1998 version of personal financial management software chose Quicken 98 over Money 98.

Shot No. 2: Market research firm PC Data found that Quicken outsold Money 98 last winter. Quicken took 81.6 percent of market share, based on units shipped during November and December, while Money 98 grabbed only 14.6 percent during the same time period.

"We felt that it was important to set the record straight," said Mark Goines, senior vice president of consumer products for Intuit. "We wanted to make sure we could get the hard facts out, because they?re...different [from] Microsoft's claims."

Not surprisingly, Microsoft paints a different picture.

"I think what they?re really comparing are apples and oranges," said Rich Bray, a spokesman for Microsoft Money 98. "Our press release and our survey and our study was all about product research."

Bray added that Microsoft does not dispute Intuit's market position with Quicken, even while it lambastes its competitor's efforts to discredit its original study.

Microsoft commissioned its study from Burke Market Research. To conduct the study, the software giant sat down with 200 Quicken users and demonstrated its Money product. The Quicken users then were asked which product they would purchase, and 54 percent said they would jump ship to Money.

One market research firm characterized Microsoft's study as a "very aggressive use of data."

Erica Rugullies, an analyst with Giga Information Group, said the spat over competing research studies on personal finance software is merely an offshoot of a larger fight between the two companies.

"What this is about is electronic bill presentment and bill payment, which is a hot emerging technology area," she said.

Personal finance software provides an end to the means, as it gets customers accustomed to paying their bills electronically, Rugullies said. Ultimately, achieving a certain comfort-level among wired customers will drive sales of personal finance software, particularly to large corporations, such as banks and utilities, which want to encourage their customers to pay their bills and transact business electronically.