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Intuit draws on small business

Intuit upgrades its small-business accounting software that lets companies bank and pay bills online with either QuickBooks 5.0 or QuickBooks Pro 5.0.

Intuit (INTU) today announced upgrades to its small-business accounting software that lets companies bank and pay bills online with either QuickBooks 5.0 or QuickBooks Pro 5.0.

The top-selling software, expected to be available through software retailers by mid-January, provides one-click access to all key features in the software, including banking and payment.

Intuit also announced 28 banks that will offer those online banking and bill-paying services over a secure private network. They include Bank of Boston, Chase Manhattan Bank, and First Chicago. Through QuickBooks 5.0, users can check account balances, determine if checks have cleared, transfer money between accounts, and pay bills to any vendor.

"We discovered about a year ago that there was a lot of interest in online banking, but that customers wanted it more focused on their needs as a business, not consumer-type banking," said Ted Patton, Intuit product manager. "They can make payments to a vendor based on a specific invoice."

Because of security concerns among small business customers, Intuit is offering the financial services over its private network, not the Internet. However, QuickBooks 5.0 ships with a custom version of Netscape Communications' Navigator browser that gives users free access to Intuit's Small Business Online Web site.

Intuit also unveiled QuickBooks Financial Advisor, a training and customer referral program for accountants and computer consultants. The software will help them support and recruit clients that use QuickBooks.

Intuit expects QuickBooks 5.0 to sell for about $100, with a projected $200 price for QuickBooks Pro 5.0, for businesses that bill customers on a project basis. Current users of Intuit's personal finance software Quicken and QuickBooks customers get a $30 rebate on QuickBooks 5.0, and $50 or $75 for the project version. Both versions are available only for Windows.