Subscription, or Unit Sales?
One of my predictions earlier this year was that QuickBooks Pro and Premier would be switched over to a subscription-only basis in the US. It made sense to me! QuickBooks Enterprise is available only by subscription. QuickBooks Pro/Premier are available only by subscription in the UK. In Canada, those products are heading towards subscription-only basis. I know that Intuit prefers subscription sales over unit sales for their financial statements. It seemed obvious to me that this was the direction that Intuit wanted to go with QuickBooks Pro and Premier in the US.
However, Todd Stanley said that there are no current plans to change US sales of QuickBooks Pro and Premier to a subscription-only basis. At least not now. There may be some new subscription offerings that will entice people to move in that direction, but unit sales won’t be dropped in the US. The changes to subscription-only in Canada and the UK were marketing decisions for those particular geographies, and have no bearing on the US market.
On a side note, we can expect a price increase for QuickBooks Enterprise, which was announced to members of the Intuit Reseller Program recently.
QuickBooks Desktop Product Development
Intuit generally doesn’t talk about future product developments in the desktop environment. If they tell me something about what they are working on, I’m usually prevented from writing about it (until they are released) by a non-disclosure agreement. However, in my interview with Todd Stanley, I had some specific questions about the direction of QuickBooks on the desktop.
- Intuit has made a big splash by acquiring TSheets (time management/reporting) and Exactor (sales tax) this year. While the main thrust of these acquisitions is their integration with QuickBooks Online, what about the desktop? Both of these products do have an integration with QuickBooks Desktop as add-on products, but will there be a closer integration in the future? Todd said that these kinds of integrations are worth investigating, but no timeframe has been set. It may be a question of “when” rather than “if.”
- QuickBooks Desktop relies on a number of old technologies, some that may be difficult to get away from. How about removing reliance on products/services like Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader, both of which are required for certain functions in the desktop product? In this area, Todd said it was too soon to say what Intuit might do. Fair enough, those are tough issues to deal with, he isn’t ready to make a commitment on this.
- As I mentioned earlier, Todd said that their main focus is on improving reliability of the product. Fixing data corruption issues, fixing bugs, improving installation issues. Which bugs? We didn’t get into that degree of detail, outside of general statements. I will note that (in my opinion), outside of issues like data corruption, everyone has a different list of must fix bugs. I have my list, my friend “Rustler” (from the Intuit Community forums) has a very different list, so deciding on which bugs are the most important ones may be tough for Intuit. I will note, however, that some significant bugs have been around for a long, long time.
- It is clear that inventory management is going to be a big area of focus for QuickBooks Enterprise. We’ve already seen enhanced order fulfillment, which is a start of a series of significant improvements for inventory management (with barcoding). I expect to see a lot more advances in this area.
QuickBooks Add-On Products
I found it very interesting that Todd Stanley expressed, at several times in my interview with him, that add-on products are very important in the QuickBooks Desktop ecosystem.
There is a lot of room for improvement in support for add-on developers. Unfortunately, there are some restrictions – Intuit can’t toss out the current programming interface in favor of something that is newer and easier to work with. They tried that in the past, and it was a failure. Intuit has to maintain compatibility with the current programming interface so that they don’t toss out all the work that developers have done already.
What Intuit can do is to fix the bugs and fill in the gaps in the programming interface (QBSDK) that exist now. Add-on developers don’t have access to all of the QuickBooks desktop data as it stands now.
One interesting point that Todd brought up was that when considering the addition of a new feature, Intuit needed to look to see if there was a partner that satisfies that particular need already. If an add-on product is available to fulfill a need, then perhaps Intuit should work on something else. I find that very refreshing, because it gives developers some confidence that they won’t have the rug pulled out from under them. For example, in important areas like data import/export (Transaction Pro Importer and Exporter) and advanced reporting/business analytics (QQube and BizTools Analytics), excellent products already exist, so Intuit should work on other areas of improvement
QuickBooks Desktop Is Alive and Well
While I am painting a fairly rosy view of the future of QuickBooks Desktop, that doesn’t change one important thing. Intuit firmly believes that their future growth is with QuickBooks Online. That is clear. There is a much larger potential for new customers in the online market, both for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed. All of the neat new “futuristic” kinds of developments, like using machine learning and big data, are all going to be done with the online products.
I’m OK with that. I understand Intuit’s focus on the online market. However, Intuit’s new focus on supporting QuickBooks Desktop is very encouraging, and I’m anxious to see what direction they take the product over the next few years.