There is a trend among software makers these days to more fully leverage the “power of the web”, and why wouldn’t they? The Internet has become the way businesses and users get and stay connected, and has become a foundation for how business gets done. Remote and mobile access to information and applications has become an expectation of users, as social computing models have encouraged them to remain connected on all of their devices and from any location. Online describes a working model that many businesses strive for, and software makers are seeking to capitalize on the trend.
The belief that software should no longer be installed and run from a local device has been adopted by some of the largest software vendors in the market, which would lead many users to expect that this is the important trend to follow. Being encouraged to ditch their desktop software products and transition to using the web-based or SaaS alternative, users who have grown to trust their software products are now facing new buying decisions. Any time a customer is forced to make a buying decision – like moving from a desktop product to a SaaS solution – there is a potential that the customer will go with a different vendor and leave the product line altogether. Yet this is exactly what is happening with small business applications, and specifically with the tried-and true QuickBooks products – the solutions which had become the cornerstone of small business finance.
Where QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise desktop editions were the favored and trusted small business accounting solutions, Intuit is now on a wholesale push to get users transitioned to the QuickBooks Online edition. In doing so, they’ve opened up the door for new competitors, because they’re forcing their QuickBooks users to make a new buying decision. Assuming that customers will adopt the QuickBooks Online solution simply because it’s “QuickBooks” was perhaps a poor assumption on the part of Intuit. Particularly by naming the product “QuickBooks”, Intuit invested the trust and long-standing recognition of the brand and product line into the online edition, and the user base and market has not been amused. “It may be called QuickBooks, but it’s not the QuickBooks I want” says one customer. Apparently, the QuickBooks Online edition is not what many experienced QuickBooks desktop users are looking for in a new version of the product.
Desktop QuickBooks users don’t have to move to the Online edition just to get the benefits of the cloud with their beloved QB. The hosting and cloud service providers I work with help businesses run the QuickBooks desktop products as online service. We deliver fully managed applications and data, allowing users to access their QuickBooks desktop products online and from a variety of devices just as if they were web-based. Gaining the benefits of anytime/anywhere access with the added advantage of not changing software is a direction many users are electing to go. While the price of a hosted solution may not be as low as a QuickBooks Online subscription, it is generally far less than a subscription to Salesforce.com, for example. Isn’t the business financial data at least as valuable as CRM? The price isn’t unreasonable, and the benefits of online/remote access, managed IT, protected data, and an ability to take your ball and go home if you like are huge. Grab your data file, install QuickBooks on your PC, and you’re back in action. Can’t do that with most SaaS solutions, can you? It’s only do-able with desktop software, which you can run in the cloud with a hosting provider or run on your own PC.
Assuming that all software will ultimately run online could be a big a mistake. As technology advances and new capabilities introduce new complexities, the “heavy lifting” shifts from the center to the end points and back again. While there may be a trend towards SaaS and leveraging the power of a remote system, the reality is that our devices – desktops and laptops, tablets and phablets and phones – are all getting more powerful. Many SaaS applications and remote access technologies rely upon (and find ways to push more resource utilization to) the local device. Video processes more quickly, input and output devices are more easily recognized, and the storage on the device is faster and easier to access. A lot of work happens on the local device, and it will continue to be this way as the devices continue to get smarter and more powerful. “There’s an app for that” for a reason: apps on the device work well and give users the functionality necessary to get things done efficiently.
SaaS is not all that’s out there – much of the software businesses know and love is still available the way they want it. QuickBooks users need to know they can get their QuickBooks online without having to use QuickBooks Online. The desktop is not dead, and it won’t be for a long time. Desktop software isn’t dead either; it’s just being pushed to the background as software companies attempt to wrap their arms firmly, with subscription based business models, around their respective customer bases.