Intuit wants in on the race to become the platform for enterprise apps in the cloud. It is opening up QuickBase to developers who want to build new hosted Web applications and businesses on top of it. QuickBase has been around for eight years and has amassed 250,000 users. At its core is an online database around which companies can create their own customized enterprise apps for things like project management or issue tracking. Now developers can join the QuickBase beta to develop their own enterprise apps on Intuit’s infrastructure. Intuit will host the apps, take care of the billing, and allow developers to charge whatever they want.
Intuit is joining a crowded field. Salesforce .com has its AppExchange and Force.com. Amazon has its Web services, including SimpleDB. Google just launched its App Engine. And startups like Coghead are also angling for position.
But Intuit already has a lot of small business customers that, in turn, can help it attract developers to its new platform. Bill Lucchini, the general manager of Quickbase tells me:
It is great to have a cool piece of technology, but we have to make sure that developers build successful businesses. Giving them the tools to get in front of our customers is strategy No. 1
He realizes that decent technology is just table stakes. Developers will get access to QuickBase via APIs to use as a foundation for their apps, and they also get hooks into QuickBooks, Intuit’s accounting software that is used by nearly 25 million individuals in 3.6 million businesses in the U.S. alone. Developers will be able to build apps using Adobe Flex and the open-source Eclipse development environment. For the technically-minded, here is a screencast that goes into more details.
Although the economics have yet to be fully worked out, Intuit plans to charge using a utility model similar to Amazon’s that goes up the mnore resources a developer’s app consumes. Says Lucchini:
We are trying to price these things where developers can charge $10 to $20 per user per month and make a profit. Small businesses are pretty price sensitive.
The Web platform wars are in full swing. Which platform will developers flock to for enterprise apps?