BOSTON Intuit Inc is looking to boost Quicken personal finance software sales by offering it as a service for $3 a month that can run on Apple Inc's iPhone.
It hopes the product, which launches on January 8, will vastly expand Quicken's 14 million users and boost the market penetration of a brand that already generates about 1.7 million new copies of software a year, Intuit senior vice president Rick Jensen told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
Intuit has designed the product to appeal to younger consumers, people who may have used online banking for most of their adult lives, but do not use software to track those transactions.
"Our first mission is to make sure we are solving the needs of people who are not currently using a personal finance solution," he said.
Sales of the Quicken brand have basically been flat since peaking in 2001, but it has recently taken some business away from its only key rival, Microsoft Corp, according to market researcher NPD.
Quicken's U.S. market share rose to 80 percent in the first 11 months of this year from 72 percent in 2006. Microsoft Money's share of sales declined to 19 percent from 25 percent in the prior year, according to NPD.
NPD declined to provide specific dollar sales figures.
While Intuit does not release sales figures for Quicken, NPD says that, so far this year, the product has been selling at an average of $53.38. At that price, 1.7 million copies would ring up to about $91 million.
Quicken online will be accessible through regular Web browsers and most mobile devices with browsers, protecting the data with the same technologies that banks use to secure online transactions.
But it will be tough to read on small screens.
The version that Intuit has developed for iPhone has been designed for use on-the-go, offers fewer features than the version for regular Web browsers and is optimized for iPhone screens.
Intuit, whose products range from small-business accounting software with QuickBooks to tax preparation programs with TurboTax, also plans to tweak the service so it works on the Blackberry from Research in Motion Ltd and other mobile devices.
But company officials declined to say when that will happen.
They said they decided to tweak the product for the iPhone ahead of other devices because Apple enthusiasts tend to be early adopters of new technologies. They may be more likely to embrace a software as a service product, said Jim Del Favero, product manager for the Quicken group.
Intuit, the world's largest maker of financial software for consumers and small businesses, has already launched online versions of TurboTax, which have been used by millions of tax filers, and QuickBooks, which has some 120,000 users.
Online Quicken is targeting millions of younger, Web-savvy consumers who generally eschew software that must be installed.
Teenagers and young adults are willing to pay for software, but they are not interested in spending time to buy it and install it on a PC, or want to be restricted to using it on one device, Jensen said.
"It's about the amount of work and time they are willing to invest," he said. "Even going out and shopping for a piece of software in the store. They are not interested in that."
The program's functionality will be similar to what is available on the entry level version in Intuit's Quicken line. That would give users the ability to do things such as balance their checkbooks, review spending patterns and track cash flow.
Quicken's desktop software already allows users to download banking information, credit card charges and electronic bills. The new online product will be able to do that, but will be easier to set up, he said.
It will automatically download new information as those companies make it available. In the case of credit card charges, transaction details will be pushed out to Quicken online users as they are accrued, rather than requiring customers to wait until the end of the month to see all charges for the period, he added.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Brian Moss/Andre Grenon)