SMBs may benefit from increasingly connected applications as developers offer Web apps through the new federated applications capability of Intuit's Platform-as-a-Service.

Benjamin Tomkins, Contributor

June 3, 2009

4 Min Read

SMBs may benefit from increasingly connected applications as developers offer Web apps through the new federated applications capability of Intuit's Platform-as-a-Service.According to Alex Chriss, business leader of the Intuit Partner Platform, Intuit is not just a technology company, and the vendor's secret sauce is a focus on the customer. Chriss claims that the addition of federated applications is the result of starting with a customer problem and working backward. The customer challenge that Intuit identified with SaaS is that despite appealing pricing and application power, maintaining a panoply of SaaS applications requires juggling multiple log ins and often rekeying of data.

Moving toward Web-based applications that work together is the obvious solution to this user challenge. Chriss acknowledges that universality of the problem, saying "We took a hard, but obvious problem and solved it simply."

That solution is the federated application capability now available on the Intuit Partner Platform. Users can browse and buy these federated applications via the Intuit Workplace online portal. The biggest appeal is that every app from this source will work together, use a single username and password, and be accessible via browser. As you'd expect with Intuit, all federated apps also work with QuickBooks.

The big hook for developers is access to the 4 million businesses that use QuickBooks (and those businesses estimated 25 million employees). Developers can build Web applications with any programming language, database, or cloud computing resource and then publish them to the Intuit Workplace; existing applications can also be configured to connect with Intuit's PaaS. Intuit does run a security assessment and privacy policy review on all apps prior to publication. Developers set their own application pricing with Intuit taking a revenue share of 20% to 14% based upon volume. The four integration points for the federated applications are:

  • Data: To integrate applications with Intuit Partner Platform data, developers must program against APIs provided by Intuit to enable data synchronization

  • Login: A Federated Identity Web API allows users to use their Intuit Workplace login credentials to access the federated applications within Intuit Workplace.

  • User management and permissions: Intuit provides developers with a Web API so that their application can handle processes such as inviting additional users to their application.

  • Navigation: Developers with existing SaaS applications may have to make minor User Interface adjustments, such as removing sign-in/sign-out links within their solutions. The Intuit Workplace provides this in its toolbar to provide users a seamless experience between applications.

At launch, Intuit has enlisted five partners and federated apps are available from each now (all with a free trial option). The five partners offering apps right now are:

  • VerticalResponse provides on-demand e-mail marketing, online survey, and direct mail solutions. VerticalResponse for Intuit Workplace adds sales and marketing tools to QuickBooks. Pricing starts at $10 per month or on a pay-as-you-go model.

  • Dimdim provides Web conferencing for live meetings, demos, and webinars via PC, Mac or Linux Web browsers for up to 50 people for only $25 per month.

  • Rypple provides tools for soliciting private feedback from colleagues, clients, and advisers. Free for up to 20 users.

  • Setster allows users to accept appointments online using an application widget that can be embedded on any Web site. Pricing starts at $9.95 per month.

  • ExpenseWare automates travel and entertainment expense reporting and can import credit card data, manage out-of-pocket expenses, integrate data with QuickBooks and other accounting systems, and generate custom invoices and reports. Pricing for is $9.99 per user per month for up to 1,000 users.

Summing up the appeal to business owners of using federated applications, Chriss says, "From the customer stance, there's no fee to join the ecosystem, no platform fee, and the apps are all priced for SMBs in the $10-$20 range. From an end-user standpoint, it's affordable and you don't need to be a Intuit customer."

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