Intuit is giving a Web 2.0 makeover to Quicken, its franchise desktop personal accounting brand.Last week, accounting and business software behemoth Intuit ( INTU) rolled out the latest riff on its personal accounting and small-business package, Quicken 2011 (Starter Edition, $30; Premier Edition, $90). Intuit has been feeling the personal finance pressure of late. American Express ( AXP), Citi ( C) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) -- not to mention startups such as SmartyPig, Foonance and Geezeo -- now offer spiffy personal finance and accounting tools for little or nothing. So last year, Intuit decided to change up. It took out online finance software phenom Mint.com for a cool $170 million, and made that company's founder, Aaron Patzer, responsible for Quicken.Then it wound down Quicken Online and replaced it with Mint.com, and finally gave the desktop version of Quicken a big, bad Web 2.0-ish makeover. Considering the stakes for Intuit, and the popularity of Quicken as an accounting tool for sole proprietors and microfirms, I have been giving the code the once-over in my small shop and got an extensive demo by Patzer himself. Here's what I think: WHAT YOU GET As expected, this is a collaborative, easy-to-use, Web-ish riff of Quicken. Right away, you will feel the online vibe with this desktop software. The new Quicken is faster, leaner, and comes with Web-based data collection features that grab content from about 12,000 financial institutions. Setup is simple: Load the software, enter your account and personal information as requested and, in about a half-hour, you'll have a reasonably accurate picture of your finances. Voila. The code is simple to use. Everything is organized by tabs such as Spending, Bills, Planning and Investing. There is intriguing use of mutual fund data and real-time pricing information. And given enough setup time -- more on that in a second -- work expenses can be clearly separated from personal spending. And business tax information can be gleaned and shipped to an accountant. I must say, having my finance software on a computer under my direct control really does give me a comfy, secure feeling. WHAT YOU DON'T GET Don't expect this to be a bombproof small-business accounting solution, or an instant hit with consumers.
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