How a SaaS product shook the foundations of its on-premise rival

What’s an example of on-premise software being threatened by the emergence of a SaaS upstart operating in the cloud?  Answer: Mint Vs. Quicken

Quicken, for years, had cultivated a devoted base of users who waited for each new version of the software to appear from Intuit. This nifty little personal finance tool is easier to use than QuickBooks albeit more limited in scope.  

Then came along this amazingly simple and intuitive online offering called Mint, which promised to integrate all your personal finance into one single web interface, with no requirement to download software. And it was free!

In 2009 TechCrunch reported that Mint claimed it gained 3000 users per day jumping from 600,000 to 850,000 in just a few short months. The numbers were disputed by Intuit, who suddenly understood how the cloud could reshape a landscape it had for years dominated.

This led Intuit to purchase Mint for around $170 million (£108m), stating in a press release that: “With this transaction, Intuit will gain another fast-growing consumer brand and a highly successful software as a service (SaaS) offering that helps people save and make money.

"This move will enhance Intuit’s position as a leading provider of consumer SaaS offerings that connect customers across desktop, online and mobile."

Intuit had of course tried to defend itself prior to the acquisition of Mint, by implementing Quicken Online.

However, it perhaps suffered from being too close to the product and did not get the creative user interface right that made Mint so popular. It was also more of an extension of its existing product, which failed to integrate the core concepts of web 2.0 and the additional features offered by the cloud.

After the purchase of Mint, Intuit said it intended keeping both the and Quicken Online offerings, with each serving separate and equally important purposes.

“ will become the primary online personal finance management service that is offered directly to consumers by Intuit. Quicken Online will connect Quicken customers across desktop, online and mobile to deliver easy, anytime-anywhere access.

"This will help accelerate Intuit’s ability to create products and services that make managing money easier for all Intuit customers.”

And therein lies a valuable example of why traditional independent software vendors (ISVs) who have not yet embraced the cloud should consider the future landscape.

But not many will have the deep pockets of Intuit to purchase the competition (and thereby absorb developer brainpower) that could drive a new way of application innovation. Further, failure to deploy a SaaS version opens the door to the competition, which can have a number of adverse consequences that are difficult to predict, but sure to transpire.

This is a major reason why Virtual Internet has released a new dedicated Virtual Datacentre aimed at SMEs, web professionals and traditional ISVs. It allows the rapid deployment of new cloud services using a utility pricing model. 

It offers a simple, cloud-delivery mechanism for ISVs to get their feet wet and explore new options for both testing and deploying a SaaS version of their product.

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