QuickBooks

Is QuickBooks Desktop Dead?

QuickBooks for Mac

I have a confession. When I think of “QuickBooks desktop” I always think of the Windows versions of the product. I’ve never been a “Mac person,” I’m totally immersed in the world of Microsoft Windows. However, Intuit has the QuickBooks for Mac product, and there are many loyal users.

Looking at QuickBooks for Mac, I think it is very telling that there was no QuickBooks for Mac 2017 product. The current version is QuickBooks for Mac 2016.

It also is important to note that there is no external programming interface for the Mac product, so there cannot be any third-party products developed for QuickBooks for Mac.

So what do I see in the future for QuickBooks for Mac?

  • I predict that there will continue to be maintenance releases to the current product, fixing problems and possibly handling operating system changes, but only for a few more years.
  • I suspect that we will see some additional Intuit-produced “attachments” to work with QuickBooks for Mac, such as QuickBooks Financing.
  • I believe that QuickBooks for Mac 2016 is the last major release. I don’t expect another version to be produced. Given Intuit’s normal “sunset” policies, that would indicate that QuickBooks for Mac will be discontinued in 2019.

Please note that this is speculation on my part. I don’t have any “inside information” about this product. Intuit really didn’t want to talk to me about this product when I was interviewing people for this article series. I could be wrong, we’ll have to wait and see.

Update 3/1/2017: Just as I predicted, today Intuit told ProAdvisors that there will be no new version of QuickBooks for Mac on the desktop. The 2016 version is the last, and support will expire on May 31 2019.

The type of business user that Intuit targets with QuickBooks for Mac is very similar to their target for the core version of QuickBooks Online – small, service-oriented businesses. There is a lot of overlap here. It doesn’t make sense to me that they would have two products aimed at the same demographics.

QuickBooks Pro/Premier

I lump these two products together, although there are significant differences between them. QuickBooks Pro is much more like QuickBooks Online as far as features, and particularly as to the target business type. Usually when people make the case for why the desktop product is so much better than the online product, they are referring to features found in QuickBooks Premier.

What has been going on with QuickBooks Pro and Premier lately?

  • There definitely has been a slowdown in the number of new features that come out every year. I used to have to publish two weeks-worth of blog articles to cover all the new features that were released every Fall, now I’m down to just about two articles. If you look at QuickBooks 2017, there really was only one new feature of any significance, Scheduled Reports.
  • Intuit is focusing on improving reliability and security in these products. Lots of things have been improved “under the hood” that you might not see.
  • Intuit tells me that sales of Pro/Premier are relatively flat. Earlier I talked about the increase in revenue for desktop products. That increase isn’t coming from Pro and Premier.
  • Intuit continues to support these products with an intelligent and well-grounded management and development team. I spend a lot of time talking to these people, and I believe that the products are in good hands.

So, where do I see these products going?

  • Security, compliance and performance will continue to be a focus for development. Intuit wants to ensure that they produce the most solid product that they can.
  • After that, Intuit will continue to work on ensuring that all capabilities in the product function properly. The advantage to releasing fewer new features every year is that they can provide a quick response to customer issues.
  • Intuit will continue to expand and enhance the integration with QuickBooks Payments. This is a significant source of revenue for them, plus it exposes desktop users to the benefits of working with an online feature.
  • I expect to see more “attachments,” since that is the key to their success. Look for integration with QuickBooks Financing, for example.
  • I wonder, will they move completely to a subscription pricing model for Pro and Premier? Intuit says that they have no plans for this. However, they already have subscription pricing available in the QuickBooks Pro Plus and QuickBooks Premier Plus programs, for QuickBooks Accountant, and of course for QuickBooks Enterprise. Intuit really likes having products on a subscription basis rather than on a unit purchase basis. I will also note that starting very recently they only sell by subscription in the United Kingdom.
  • This is totally speculation on my part, with no clues from Intuit, but I wonder if they will eventually drop QuickBooks Pro while keeping QuickBooks Premier? Pro is much closer in features to QuickBooks Online, while Premier is the product for businesses with advanced needs. Maybe? Probably not soon, if at all. I don’t have any figures on revenue that separates QuickBooks Pro from QuickBooks Premier.

QuickBooks Enterprise

Last September, when Intuit rolled out the 2017 desktop products, I was very surprised to see that there were no new features that were introduced in QuickBooks Enterprise. What did that mean? Was Enterprise being abandoned? Then I was surprised to hear that all of the Enterprise development engineers that I knew had either moved over to the QuickBooks Online team, or left the company. What was going on?

As I started digging in to this, I came up with a few points that made me feel better:

  • The revenue growth shown in my charts for QuickBooks Desktop came primarily from QuickBooks Enterprise.
  • Intuit tells me that QuickBooks Enterprise customers are more likely to purchase “attachments” than QuickBooks Pro and Premier users. Recall that revenue from “attachments” is very, very significant to Intuit.
  • While the engineering contacts that I had for QuickBooks Enterprise were no longer working on that product (and I’ll admit, I don’t think I knew them all), Intuit has brought in a new, enthusiastic development team for Enterprise. This is one of those good news, bad news situations, I guess. The bad news is that you have people who don’t understand the “history” of the product, who don’t know the market it addresses. On the other hand, this could be very good news because now you have people who are coming in with fresh new ideas on how the product can be expanded and developed. To be honest, after talking to some members of the new team, I think that this bodes well for QuickBooks Enterprise.
  • Although there weren’t any significant new features in the 2017 release of Enterprise, there was a lot of under-the-cover work on improving security, reliability, compliance and performance for the product. It is still early to tell how well this has worked out, but it does make a lot of sense for the new team to clean up these kinds of issues before working on new features.

So, now I’m feeling better about the future for QuickBooks Enterprise.

Looking forward, I see:

  • There will be an increased focus on QuickBooks Enterprise compared to what we’ve had lately.
  • I wonder where Enterprise pricing will go? I think that the number of customers stayed fairly constant, so does that leave the door open for price increases? Despite all the complaints about the change to subscription pricing, Intuit didn’t appear to lose a lot of customers here. I also wonder if we are going to see a return to bundled pricing where some new features might be available for a separate subscription price, like we used to see with Advanced Inventory? I have no information on this, I’m just speculating.
  • As with QuickBooks Pro and Premier, I expect to see more “attachment” integration, such as QuickBooks Financing.
  • We are going to see more new features coming out in the future. Intuit understands that there is a lot of interest in inventory-related features on the part of QuickBooks Enterprise customers. I hope to see more inventory features, better handling of order fulfillment, and I really hope that there will be improvements in in-product reporting.

Wrapping It All Up

This concludes my “state of the union” presentation on the QuickBooks product line. I hope that this generates a lot of discussion – please leave comments about what you think I got right, where I’m wrong, and what you would like to see Intuit do. Your comments can impact the products, as I believe Intuit keeps an eye on these articles.

And, keep in mind that a lot of my conclusions are speculation on my part. I did spend a lot of time interviewing various Intuit employees, and I’ve been covering the company in articles for many years now, but Intuit is very good about keeping details of their plans very private.

They key points that I’ve tried to make in this series are:

  • The QuickBooks Online ecosystem is clearly the focus of the future for Intuit. This includes QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Online Accountant and QuickBooks Self-Employed.
  • Mobile computing is a major thrust along all online products. “Mobile First” is their battle cry.
  • Keep an eye on “Machine Learning.” I truly believe that this is the concept that will be transformational for the company and the products. Machine learning is what will make online accounting software more than just a cloud-based program that does the same thing we have been doing all along on the desktop.
  • QuickBooks Online Accountant is going to be the accountant’s home base, and become more of a practice management tool.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed is a growing product that will be a significant part of Intuit’s future. Intuit has a unique set of skills, knowledge and products that gives them the best chance for succeeding in this marketplace.
  • QuickBooks Desktop (for Windows) is not dead yet, but QuickBooks Enterprise is where all the fun new developments will show up.

About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.

63 Comments

  • Thanks Charlie, this series is awesome.

    I definitely agree it’s obvious that Intuit eyes QuickBooks Online as the future. But like many, we’ve found that our bigger and more complex clients really have difficulty migrating to QBO. Some are relieved to migrate back to one of the desktop products. We’re seeing that the sweet spot for QBO is on the low end of business revenue and complexity. Bigger businesses are still best suited to go to Enterprise, which has a better feature set to meet their needs. And frankly Enterprise fills a big hole in the marketplace. QBO doesn’t provide the larger and more complex companies what they need just yet.

    I am eager to see how QBO evolves in the coming years, and if it will truly replace the desktop products…especially Enterprise. I expect it to be on par with Enterprise in the 5 year range. But I’m not sure it will ever truly replace it. I think there’s a strong market for both products, even if the capabilities are similar.

    Kurt

    • Thanks, Kurt! Haven’t heard from you in awhile.

      I think it will be a very long time before QuickBooks Online is on a par with Enterprise. In fact, I wonder if it ever will, at least BY ITSELF. However, addon products are going to fill in a lot of those gaps. There are addon products that go a long way towards “Enterprise parity” when you talk about heavy inventory related businesses, for example. But I don’t see things like heavy manufacturing ever using QBO by itself. Also, we are going to start to see features in QBO that don’t exist in the desktop products. That is when it is going to be very hard to compare desktop to online.

      But, yes, at this time, without addons, QBO is definitely aimed at the smaller business, service oriented.

    • What an Explanation, Really Charlie has made each and every point crystal clear for there readers, Also thanks for giving us hope, as we are into accounting business. Once Again Thank you Charlie.

    • There are all kinds of them, but each has different advantages, and you have to choose the one that fits your needs. https://apps.intuit.com/ lists quite a few, some of which I am familiar with, some that I am not. SOS Inventory has been around a long time. Cin7 fits some businesses and has a lot of followers. I really like DEAR Inventory for some kinds of situations. Unleashed, HandiFox, Agiliron, All Orders, BarCloud, SalesPad Cloud are all products that I have some familiarity with and are good options. But they are all different, and there are many kinds of businesses dealing with “inventory management”.

  • Intuit will be eyeing the higher revenue/customer from a subscription model. They will happily toss half their old customers if they can keep the other half and get a lot more cash out of them – and that’s the name of the game with a subscription model (ask Adobe).

    So the high revenue from Desktop users might just be seen as something large to milk. Once they have you on subscription (for Desktop Software) and once they make more of the add-ons cloud based, you’re stuck with them. Then they force migration to QBO. I would trust Intuit’s statements about preserving Desktop about as much as I’d trust anything their marketing people say.

    You make a really good point about Desktop Pro probably being the first Windows version to walk the plank.

    • As I said, I believe, they already have a subscription model as an option, so they have a way to test the market there.

      I’m not sure what you mean by having more add-ons cloud based in relation to this, as that is a statement open to interpretation.

      Keep in mind that although I’ve referenced Intuit’s statements about the desktop being around, I’m not basing my claims on that. I’m looking at the revenue, and staffing, and other factors. I do believe that there will be an end to the desktop product, but I don’t expect it to be in the very near future. Not when you count the entire product line, including Enterprise.

      But, we’ll see! And, Intuit does change course fairly often, so we have to revisit the issue every couple of years.

      • Hi Charlie, I have a comment about Quickbooks Online. I currently run QB Mac 2016 (the last year for QB Mac) and I ran a 30-day trial of QBO to test the product. There is a feature we need in QBO which is absent, which was a deal breaker for us: namely, that we need to organize customers by “type”. We have clients that are under contract with us – and we also have clients that are on a pay-as-you-go program. QB Pro Windows, and QB Mac have this feature – the ability to assign a “type” to each customer profile. Can you offer this feedback to Intuit? We could use QBO if that feature existed.

          • Hi Charlie, thank you for your reply. There is one more feature, that to my knowledge, none of the Quickbooks products have offered – namely, the ability to run a summary report titled: “Income by locality”. City business license fees, are based on gross receipts accrued within a city. Companies report their 12-month sales on their license renewal form, which determines the license fee. There is no easy way currently to summarize sales by city. Can you get this message to Intuit? Thank you.

  • Very informative article. Love the insight on possible changes in future Enterprise development. Would love to see more integration abilities to desktop. Reporting, CRM, Marketing Automation, etc.

  • Thanks so much Charlie for the very comprehensive “state of the union” series. It was extremely well organized, thought out, and written. I appreciate your hard work. I commented on the various articles along the way.

  • This has been an interesting series and great analysis. I can’t see Intuit abandoning desktop in the near future either. It’s just a better fit for some clients. Others work better with QBO.

    I realize Intuit would like to see those users that need more features migrate to QBO plus add-ons. But the cost for some can easily be quadruple what the desktop option would cost them.

    Both products (desktop & QBO) have different strengths. It’s really nice having both.

  • Like with any product in the cloud. In accounting software terms they are relevantly new. The desktop products have been built by likes of Sage and QB and have aged 20-30 years. The new Online product will not be direct replacements for a time yet and take time to be as feature rich. However. It’s a fact that most people using these desktop products are in most cases not using the product to its full potential nor do they need all of it. So QBO, Sage One and Xero penetrate that market well. As well as new business sales in the small and micro world. In time they will be as feature rich or provide ISVs that write into them. Its also still important to nurture the long standing customers for life as well as new businesses. Sage do this well as they provide a choice, desktop, hybrid, online. That scales from micro to Enterprise on all 3 styles providing all round choice. What’s more important is the automation online software provides. Many people should be preparing for the effects of AI, and bots on the services they provide to customers and how to utilize that to reduce labor and time and increase effectiveness and productivity.

  • The sad things is that people who use QBO don’t realize what they are missing when they have never used the desktop version. Ignorance is bliss as they say. However, for the cost of QBO and the features compared to the desktop version, QBO falls ridiculously short. Intuit does a hard sell for people to subscribe to QBO even when they know it is not as good a product. I understand, it’s a business and they are there to make money. But misleading customers into purchasing or even upgrading to a product that they know will not fit their business is just reckless and irresponsible.

  • @Kendall, I’ve been using QuicBooks desktop since the DOS version, and know exactly what is under the hood in each product. There is a trade off when selecting products. QBO is definitely not the same product as QBD. If you need certain features found in QBD, then that’s the product to use for that client. But, for more simple clients where your main requirements are multi-user remote access, and heavily rely on bank feeds, then QBO is the way to go, because it’s Bank Feed is far superior than QBD. As a result, I can get those clients done much faster in QBO than QBD. It really depends on what the client needs.

  • In the uk enterprise was axed a few years ago and now desktop is a monthly subscription at double the price of QBO so I see the end in sight

    • I do tend to be a bit USA-centric, since that is the market I work in and where I have the most connections at Intuit. I did point out the move to subscription pricing in the UK, and I believe that if this works as they hope in the UK (that is, encourages people to move from desktop to online) then we’ll see it here.

      Pro/Premier sales in the UK have never been stellar. Enterprise sales also were quite low. So Intuit axed Enterprise and is trying to get everyone to the online product. This allows them to focus desktop sales to the US and Canada markets, where they are doing better.

      • Wow! Glad I’m not in the UK, however a similar thing will probably happen here in the US in ~5 years, except Enterprise might be the one that hangs on while Pro/Premier is discontinued. We see this pattern with Intuit when they are shifting direction. Reduce marketing/availability, then report reducing sales on that product, and finally, discontinuing the product based on poor sales performance. Gee I wonder why? If it’s not a super well performing product, then Intuit can’t be bothered, even if it serves a need in the market. I use and recommend QBO for what it is, but it’s not a replacement (yet) for either desktop products for many clients, regardless of what Intuit’s marketing machine would like users to believe.

  • Having worked with a lot of accountants in the UK and USA i have seen both sides. The UK accountant is very pro active with new technology not just accounting but using add on solutions like T-Sheets, Receipt bank to name a few. Subscription is even a consideration anymore, its just the way its done and not many think twice about it. This is a market standard, Direct debit (auto pay) is a requirement for most retail, technology, IT, Mobile, Telephony, utilities. I’ve noticed in the USA still a lot of traditional methods still being used with check writing. In my 35 years living in the UK ive never written a check neither have any of my friends and work colleagues. Subscription is just not a big deal. Also the HMRC have gone all digital and will be fully digital by 2020 so this was a huge influence. Not to spiral off point. The USA still has a lot of traditional thinking customers being led by traditional based accountants, probably worlds most complex tax system, and broadband still reaching to further regions this is an issue for cloud adoption. Desktop is still the stronger product but cloud has all the automation. As i eluded to above Sage have built a desktop hybrid with 50c, 100c so they have desktop with automated tools like T-Sheets and bank feeds. Also their cloud products talk to their desktop so you can use Sage One and Sage 50c together. Then they have their cloud portfolio Sage One (similar to QBO) and now Sage Live a mid-market customization cloud software built on the Saleforce platform. Nature will take its course the market will shift Sage seem to cover all basis along the road.

  • The world is full of opportunity, if a company does not do what its clients want then it will suffer and there is an opportunity for a new competitor to step into the space that is left. Might look at crowd funding this opportunity…

  • I hope they never get rid of Desktop! I am actually converting some of my clients back from QBO to Desktop (at least those that don’t actually use QBO for their invoicing), as I find QBO so completely frustrating. I’m a keyboard user and if I go too fast, well………! Prefill Bank – OMG! When you have a client that uses a few different bank accounts, the prefill Bank is awful! Would like to see Batch Enter. So many glitches….., drilling down on a report (not all but some), when you close the drill down it closes down the whole report, or takes you back to the Report List so you have to do the Report again! (I use the App so yes, I know about opening up separate windows). Sales taxes, another frustrating one……, it’s so restrictive! Sorry to be ranting but I am soooo frustrated. If I had all the time in the world, then I “guess” QBO would be okay. I think they have tried to make it so easy and streamlined that they have ended up with something completely useless, at least from an Accountant/Bookkeepers point of view. I am open to any tips etc. that will help lessen my frustration.

    • Best I can say is that be sure you are using QuickBooks Online Accountant, and don’t think of QuickBooks Online as having any relation to QuickBooks desktop. Totally different products.

  • Fascinating and useful article and interesting comments following – many thanks.

    I am supporting a number of long-standing clients on QB Desktop here in the UK, plus a few newer ones using QB Online. Despite what Intuit say, the Online offering is immature and will not support businesses with complex needs. I know this is true because I use both products on a daily basis and have built up good working knowledge on what is and isn’t in there.

    Unfortunately, in the UK Intuit have now moved even Desktop to a subscription-only pricing model, which has meant a tripling of costs for most of my clients. I used to source the software for them whenever there were advantageous offers at Amazon etc – now we are all locked into standard pricing from Intuit – with no place for Professional Advisors in the model since each business has to deal with Intuit direct.

    Intuit’s thinking is quite clearly to push their customers gently towards QB Online with pricing pressure – although for many users this is a step they cannot take even if they wanted to, due to the missing functionality. As an example, one of my clients had made a definite decision to switch to Online due mainly to the increased Desktop subscription costs, only to swiftly reconsider when I informed them that QB Online does not support Sales Orders, which they totally rely on in their business.

    The main point to take from this, I think, is that QB Desktop is an exceptionally functional and mature product. It should be, since it has been around for thirty-odd years! There’s no way a new product can recreate all this functionality in just a year or two, and Intuit should be more upfront about what is missing which could cause switchers extreme business difficulties.

    The crunch point for QB Desktop (at least here in the UK) will come when they stop supporting Payroll. At that juncture, any business requiring payroll functionality will have a tough decision – use a separate payroll system and journal the entries in, or switch to another system (but almost certainly not QB Online because of the missing functionality). Either route will be painful.

    And there’s something else just a little sinister to consider in respect of the new pricing model.

    By introducing compulsory Subscription Pricing, Intuit have quietly but fundamentally altered their relationship with their customers. From 2017, the customer no longer owns the software licence, but is merely entitled to use the product “As long as a valid monthly subscription is in place”.

    Therefore if at some point the business decides not to renew the subscription, or even at the time when the product is not officially supported any more, they cannot then continue to use it. Presumably calls to Intuit at that time to revalidate the licence will simply direct them towards the Online sign-up screen. This is a very significant move – because unlike for users of the pre-2017 versions you cannot henceforward continue to use the software indefinitely. This is a real game-changer, but no-one has really picked up on it.

    Taking all this into consideration, I feel that QuickBooks Desktop is not dead, yet – but the writing is definitely on the wall.
    The only real question is when. For myself, I have a five year maximum timeframe in mind – but it could be sooner. I sincerely hope not, because I have no doubt whatsoever that QBDesktop is the best small business accounting solution around, by a long chalk, and all of my clients using it will strongly object to being forced to switch to something else.

    • My article is very US-centric, I’ll admit. The UK and Canadian divisions of Intuit are very separate from the US division, particularly when it comes to the desktop product.

      It is fairly clear to me (although I don’t provide information to support this in this article) that there is a different view of QuickBooks desktop in the UK, and to a lesser degree in Canada, than with the US version. My general feeling is that Intuit is very interested in retiring the UK desktop products, for a wide number of reasons. They’ve already killed Enterprise there, and you brought up the pricing changes as well. When I say the “desktop is not dead” I’m referring to the US marketplace.

      • Thanks Charlie – that’s understood, and certainly they are different marketplaces for Intuit. I very much want to be wrong on this point but I believe Intuit see Desktop as yesterday’s product but not tomorrow’s, and that’s globally, not just in the UK.

        When you see them introduce compulsory subscription pricing for Desktop in the US you’ll know what the end-game is.

        For the time being, I’ll count every year I get to continue using Desktop with my clients as a bonus. I try to stay positive about QB Online, but almost everything takes twice as long to do. Some of my clients like it, but none of these have ever used Desktop so they don’t have a point of comparison. I haven’t yet encountered a Desktop to Online switcher who thinks that the software itself is better, but they do appreciate the remote access capabilities.

        • Oh, I agree that it is on the way out. My point is that it isn’t going quite yet, in the US. But Intuit makes it clear what they are focused on.

          We have subscription pricing already, have for a few years. They are watching how that goes. And one of my predictions was that they would take Pro and Premier to subscription pricing in the US in the near term.

          People who start off with QBO, without using the desktop first, are much more accepting of the product. You are right, if you start with the desktop you are unlikely to like the online version. Intuit is waiting for the long time desktop users to fade away…

  • Well this very well Explained and evident since all service are moving on to cloud then why not accounting.Even now days Intuit has started offering complementary transformation from desktop to online. Even I believe Online QuickBooks will be new milestone for intuit because this application gives more freedom to the user.just login and Access from anywhere.

  • One thing that really concerns me… “backing up online data”.

    Please correct me if i’m wrong. We can export a CSV file from QBO. However, we cannot upload all of that data. We can only upload lists, not transactions. How do we restore all our data to a brand new user account if, for example, all the data in our existing account became corrupted?

    • You don’t.

      And this to me is one of the biggest problems with mission-critical online systems.

      You entrust your data to companies like Intuit and since with complex accounting systems like this, the data is critical to the business, you in effect, entrust your business to them.

      In the (unlikely) event that they have a disaster with their systems, and their disaster recovery plan doesn’t work, or works only slowly, then your business is compromised, along with millions of others.

      In many cases, this could well be fatal for the business.

      Companies like Intuit and Sage, and for that matter Miscrosoft and all the banks, who host online systems on a massive scale, tell us this cannot happen and your data is safe.

      Everyday occurrences of system crashes across the world tell us that this is not so. Most systems stay up and running 99.99999% of the time (fill in as many nines as you want). Every now and then, one goes down, just like airliners and ships do.

      For any online service provider to claim that their systems are 100% robust is clearly nonsense. No airline will ever tell you they will categorically never, ever, have a plane of theirs crash. And if they did you wouldn’t believe them, because they are predicting a future they cannot control.

      What they do instead, is tell you the risks are so small that you can safely ignore them.

      So in the final analysis – your choice, your data, your business. For myself, I choose to keep all of my mission-critical data on me own systems, and back it up on a real-time basis in several different ways. At some point in the future I WILL have a system crash or failure – it’s a given, and it’s happened before. I know that I can be up and running again in a couple of hours and I know that I can control this process – because my recovery plan is robust, and it’s been tested.

      If Intuit’s systems go down (or for that matter my own broadband) all I can do is wait for someone else to put it right, and for me that’s not good enough. A couple of years ago my broadband went down and stayed down for three weeks. If I’d been relying on online services for mission critical data I’d have gone bust.

      As I’ve said in previous posts, online systems are here to stay, and luddites like me won’t change that. But until I’m forced into it, I’ll stay where I am, thanks.

      • Don’t confuse two separate issues – availability and security. Uptimes like you refer to are availability issues – an online system can crash or have a problem of some sort, and you might not be able to use your system or get to your data for a period of time, but eventually you get back to your data. That is the “uptime” issue, terms of service. A separate issue is permanent loss of data, corruption of some sort. Those kinds of issues are generally extremely rare for those very large providers, who hopefully have a disaster recover plan that is adequate. To be honest, even though I’m firmly a desktop person, I’m confident in Intuit in that regard. Service time issues occur, but irrecoverable loss of data hasn’t been an issue. In fact, I’ve seen more “loss of data” issues with desktop-only users than I have with major vendor online vendors.

        However, that doesn’t mean that something can’t happen, and I really wish for some way to make my own security backups. Lots of reasons for that, in online systems.

    • Online backups is a major topic, so it is hard to go through all the details here.

      First of all, define “corrupted”. Actual scrambled data, or just someone going in and making wholesale deletions and purposeful damage? Supposedly actual “corruption” won’t happen in an online system. And if it does, then the online vendor has their own backups for security. It generally is safer than your desktop data.

      As you say, exporting to CSV doesn’t get everything, and restoring is complicated. Lots of different kinds of “backups” for different purposes. Exporting to another account isn’t all that common. Exporting to a different accounting system is always hard, even on the desktop. Security backups, restore points, things of that sort, are the things that I’m most concerned about. Those are impossible in MOST online accounting systems (but not all), and that is always an issue for me.

  • The back up question has been a common question in my years of dealing with the cloud. It’s all related to the security worries from users. Especially the generation x/baby boomer.

    Take a look around you. Friends, family and staff. Think about all the devices, apps, services, cars, and social media they use. All of these are cloud storage. Unfortunately now you cannot escape it somewhere in your life. Do they worry about any of these disappearing. Yes but it’s at the back of the mind because it’s become a natural part of their lives. Reverse the situation. If we had been usual cloud since the 90s (bare in mind it’s been around since the 70s off site storage isn’t new it’s mobile that made it huge) would we worry about it today? Nobody can say it’s 100% safe and nobody will but trust is earned through the strength of a companies reputation and who they use to protect data. Intuit, Sage, and Xero all use Amazon Web servers. Why? They have the best servers with the greatest protection, and have all the legal data protection certificates in place.

    Cloud is a 70 billion $ business in 2017 and will be 200 billion by 2020. I say to anyone what I say to anyone on this post. Do you want to lead or be led by your customers new and old. Future isn’t the future anymore it’s now. Why don’t you ask your customers? Run a census with them, in those questions find out how much cloud they use without even realizing. They may be more receptive to cloud accounting then you think. Also you might find out a few more profit avenues along the way. Accounting isn’t just about Accounting anymore. Its about future proofing your customers business in turn will protect your income too. Become a linchpin not redundant to customers a technology. Embrace.

    • Completely agree we are heading inexorably towards a cloud-based future, and much of it is wonderful. As a baby-boomer (yes I admit it), I don’t have any problem with the concept of cloud-based technology as long as it’s reliable. If my TV, broadband or mobile are offline for a few hours then it’s an inconvenience. If my mission-critical business system is unavailable, then that costs money.

      QuickBooks Online was totally unavailable on three separate occasions in 2016 with one outage for more than 4 hours (Oct 21). In the grand scheme of things it’s not a bad track record.

      However in just one of my client businesses this would have cost fifty times the price of their monthly subscription in lost labour time, and at least the same again in lost customer orders – if they had been using QB Online instead of Desktop.
      Not so wonderful.

      • Service outages are a major problem, and businesses need to have plans in place on how to deal with them to minimize losses. I have to say, most businesses that I deal with that are using some online service (and most do these days, even if their accounting is on the desktop), don’t have an adequate plan in place. One of the first things I do with a new business client is talk about this kind of planning.

  • I can unequivocally say that Quickbooks Desktop is not going anywhere. Our company Ledgersync speaks to many CPA firms on a daily basis and many firms are strong advocates of QB Desktop. Although Quickbooks Online is catching up, Quickbooks Desktop will continue to lead for a long time!

  • I am a professional bookkeeper (15 years) with my own bookkeeping business. I have stopped accepting clients who use QBO. It’s clunky and cumbersome and the slowness of saving every transaction through the internet reflects on my work poorly. It’s fine for people who do their own books and love mobile computing and access, but not for this professional who finds very low job satisfaction working in QBO. If Intuit phases out the desktop version, I’m looking for a new career. Seriously!

  • Great information.

    I’m currently working with the small business market and have a couple of observations:

    QBO has a decidedly different workflow process as compared to QBD – I think this discourages an established (think older owners) small business from making the switch. QBO also, as you describe, still has less functionality compared to QBD (not considering the QBD Enterprise version in this statement).

    I’ve read that current versions of QBD, for some internal functions, rely on or “hand-off” to other software on a users’ computer (such as Windows or Office). This means that while the user is installing QBD, one must also be mindful of the many peripheral software requirements. I get that, but explaining it to non-technical business users (who use older software versions “with out problems”) is difficult – sometimes nearly impossible to convince them to spend the $$ on an upgrade. So I’d encourage Intuit to focus some of its development time, energy and dollars on pulling those functions back into their code base.

    • I’ve been saying for years – it is unfortunate that QuickBooks Online has the “QuickBooks” name in it, because it is misleading. It has no real relation to QuickBooks desktop, so people are disappointed. They think it is the online version of the desktop software they know. And it definitely isn’t. Most people that start on the desktop are disappointed in the online version.

      There is no way that Intuit is going to update the desktop product to not rely on things like Internet Explorer, Excel, Word and such. It is very ingrained in the product, and extricating them would be a lot of work for no financial benefit to Intuit. And as I’ve said in several articles, the main focus of Intuit development is on QuickBooks Online.

  • From where the world is going, I think it’s obvious that they’re focusing more on the cloud. In fact, I have clients who even if they’re using the Desktop version, are using it on some remote server so as to get the benefits of the cloud.

    However, I’ve used Xero, FreshBooks and QBO. The downside of QBO is that it’s slow as compared to Xero. Functions seem to stop working once you open multiple tabs.

    I’m not sure if this happens only with me.

  • What’s really great about putting QuickBooks desktop in a cloud environment (versus switching over to QBO) is the performance and control you have over that environment. Essentially you get the same flexibility of QBO with the robustness of Quickbooks desktop (rather than exchange that functionality for a “lite” version of the same thing). Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    The revenue graphic you showed on the first page definitely says it all though. Even if the future is heavily reliant on the cloud, QB desktop and its ancillary products are still a mature and consistent revenue source for Intuit at the end of the day.

    • Thank you, but unfortunately having hosted QB isn’t always the best thing. It all depends on your needs, and the hosting vendor. I acknowledge that I have not used your particular service, so I can’t comment on what you do or don’t provide. With some OTHER QB hosting vendors I’ve run into problems. Not all. Some cases, on a shared system, if one user crashes the QB data manager (which, with QB, happens too frequently), all others on the same server crash. In other cases, you are severely limited as to what add-on products you can use. In my own case (as an add-on developer), one QB hosting vendor clobbered all of my customers because they installed a beta test version of my product for one user, which automatically upgraded all of the users on that system to the same version (which was NOT good). There are limitations in some cases, with shared hosted systems. And you can go to a dedicated virtual system, but usually that is very expensive. Of course, “expensive” is relative, you have to work in the savings you get by not having to buy and maintain your own system.

      It is complex!

  • Perfectly agree with the points given.In terms of features QB online is no where near QB desktop .Also i feel QB online is very bulky and loads slowly on slow connections .Not to mention the whole page refresh.

    I think most people tend to forget that there are drawback which apply to both QB desktop and QB online

    1) On of the main ones is the lack of customer portal that would help customers to login and see invoices and make payments whenever they want
    2) Automated payment reminders ! This is a no brainer . Who wants to sit and send invoice reminders ? Its the 21st century

  • I am a healthcare provider and can’t use QBO because it is not HIPAA compliant. All of the workarounds that have been suggested so far seem too cumbersome.

  • I’m just seeing this article and you’ve done a great job on the series. About 90% of my clients are on the cloud, using hosted versions of QBDT. This gives us the more robust features of the desktop and allows cloud access.

    I am guessing that Intuit doesn’t want to put this out there because it would interfere with their QBO sales and be harder to explain to customers.

    • Intuit offers a private-labeled version of Right Networks, and also licenses hosting companies so that they can regulate quality of the “official” supported hosting companies, so they aren’t totally ignoring it. But they don’t go out of their way to promote it.

      Cloud hosting of QB desktop has pluses and minuses – it works in some situations, not in others.

  • According to the increasing popularity of Quickbooks online in future, I think Quickbooks Desktop will not be that much easy to use tool for business accounting needs.

  • I agree that the hosting arrangement has to be solid and work consistently. I’ve worked with a hosting company for the past 9 years and their service and support are stellar. On the other side of the coin, I’ve had clients working with Right Networks who have experienced slower performance and limitations in connecting with 3rd party applications.

    Like anything else, it depends on the individual set of circumstances and needs. Just hoping that QB continues to offer desktop or I will have to shift my business model. When I use QBO, my efficiency is reduced by 30% because of the response time, inability to open multiple windows and toggle between them to do research and because they’ve made it “user friendly” and my accounting brain just doesn’t follow it.

  • I used Quickbooks Online for a couple of years. I switched back to desktop when I realized that I did not own my data, Quickbooks does. As well, I do not like the future of computer software, where its become a service and not a product. I am sure I am part of a dying breed, but I prefer corporations staying out of my business as much as possible.

  • Until such time as QBO allows perpetual “read only” use of a company’s records after a subscription lapses, it really is a useless piece of software. Governments require access to books and records for 5-7 years after the year end the company ceases operating. That means, keeping a quickbooks account open for a long time and paying for it.

    QBO needs to make an account read only after a subscription expires but still allow access to it for 5-10 years thereafter if they want any serious business to consider its use.

    • Michael has an excellent point. As soon as you stop paying your subscription, your books are gone. This is despite the fact that it would be extremely low-cost to maintain that data as read-only for 10+ years. Of course, this would not be an issue if you could just download a copy of your company files, but you cannot.

      I unfortunately started out my Quickbooks career using QBO and will be switching to a desktop version for a variety of reasons. I have found QBO to be extremely buggy, with many glitches causing serious issues. Other than the actual bugs, the program itself is simply sluggish. It is fine for daily maintenance of your books, but when you actually need to do work, (ie. end of year) it can be a complete pain and waste of effort. If in 2019, I can work many times faster than the software I am using, there is something wrong.

      I also cannot believe that Quickbooks has not allowed users to download and upload company files. This would ease the mind of many users concerned about not owning their data, or users concerned with not having control over data loss. It would also create a backup for users who may be looking for a “undo” button after a few mistakes. For now, I will be much more satisfied with a desktop version.

Leave a Comment