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Intuit Makes Quicken Minty Fresh for Web 2.0

For all its power and upside, Quicken 2011 has the unsettling qualities of other nouveau accounting tools. Centuries-old bean counting conventions such as revenue and earnings are abandoned for near-meaningless definitions such as bills and spending. Whose bills? Mine? My dependents'? My contractors'? Also, Intuit takes great pride in being 90 percent accurate in its automated importation of data. Yes, that's impressive, but the IRS will not be impressed with the 10 percent of entries that are wrong. All ledger data really do need to be checked by hand for accuracy, which is a drag.

Intuit responded that my issues with Quicken were due to me reviewing this product as an accounting tool for small businesses, rather than strictly as a personal finance tool.

"Once you get two or three employees," Patzer said, "You move up to QuickBooks or a similar small-business accounting package."

And, he said, the average user will be satisfied with Quicken's fiscal logic.

On a larger level, it is not clear if the software's features -- no matter how spiffy -- will be enough to differentiate Quicken in a crowded market with dozens of free and low-cost personal finance options.

BOTTOM LINE Overall, Quicken 2011 is a solid upgrade. It's fast, robust and offers many easy-to-use personal finance options. Within limits, it can keep small firms on the right side of the law. But I still would advise any small business to consult an accountant on using the ledgers so no mistakes are made.

And only time will tell if the market will pay even $30 for something as widely available as personal finance software.

The fact is, personal finance software is a mature, brutally deflationary sector; and even a brand as powerful as Intuit's Quicken may have no answer for that.

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on Fox News and The WB.
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