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April 21, 2005

Old Quicken Features Killed; Users Complain



Courtesy of TechWeb.com

The annual rite of spring for Quicken users got underway this week as the provider of personal financial management software officially began dropping some online features of some of its older versions. Chat rooms were full of complaints from disgruntled users, although most appear to be signing up for new versions of Intuit Inc.'s Quicken.

"We are focused on making this transition as smooth as possible for our customers," said Chris Repetto, Intuit spokesman in an e-mail. "We are currently notifying users of Quicken 2001 and Quicken 2002 that Online Services will be discontinued as of April 19, 2005.

"Online Services includes online bill pay; downloading financial data from your bank, credit union, credit card, brokerage, or mutual fund accounts; downloading stock quotes, news headlines, and other financial information into Quicken; uploading portfolio information from Quicken to Quicken.com; and access to portfolio and other investing features on Quicken.com"

Repetto pointed out that the other major personal financial software--Microsoft's Money--also makes its older programs obsolete.

Quicken sells better than Money and, taken together, the two dominate the personal financial software space. Although relatively inexpensive--most versions of the Quicken and Money sell for under $50--the market is huge. In a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Pew reported that online banking has been growing faster than any other major Internet activity since March 2000. "Fifty-three million people, or 44 percent of Internet users and one-quarter of all adults, now say they use online banking," Pew stated in February.

The problem for both Intuit and Microsoft seems to be that the low cost of Quicken and Money doesn't cover help desk and service charges. It's a vicious circle: Users often need help to move to new versions. That costs Intuit and Microsoft so much that they need income from new versions, which were made necessary by the forced obsolescence of older versions.

But the obsolescence policy--Intuit calls it the "sunset policy"--is creating openings for upstart contenders. A program called Moneydance has been attracting Quicken users since Intuit announced it would phase out Quicken features.

"Most people who contact us are fed up with Quicken," said Sean Reilly, the Moneydance developer, who began writing the program as a hobby in 1999. "If you buy software, I don't think any of it should stop working."

The $30 Moneydance program was written in Java and operates across Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux platforms. Reilly said users like the fact that his software is "more open," and that he has a developer's kit available.

Another new offering in the personal finance and banking area is MechCAD Software's $30 AceMoney.

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