On 20 January 2010, Microsoft and Intuit made a series of announcements to piggyback on one anothers cloud computing initiatives. This is a positive move for both parties.
The Microsoft Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering has become an Intuit preferred platform backed by the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) for Intuit Partner Platform (IPP). The SDK makes it easier for Azure-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to:
- be made available on the Intuit App Centre (IAC), Intuits application marketplace via single sign-on and federated user management
- have access to data stored on IPP, Intuits own PaaS via support for IPPs Intuit Data Services (IDS).
Currently available as an open beta (limited to single sign-on or federated user management), the first version of the SDK (with additional IDS support) is to ship in February 2010. In addition, Microsofts Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) will be integrated with Intuits cloud offering by the end of 2010. BPOS features Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Live Meeting and Microsoft Office Communications Online.
This integration between two PaaS offerings and the SaaS applications they underpin is a good example of the type of ecosystem that cloud computing is fostering. The partnership is not exclusive; both companies are likely to announce similar deals with other partners soon.
Small businesses and their partners benefit from diversity and competition
Making it easier for the two companies partners to develop SaaS applications benefits both the partners and their target audience. It benefits the former by enabling them to develop and market their offering more easily, and benefits the latter by boosting the diversity of, and competition between, new offerings and services. It also offers them pre-integrated solutions.
The move builds on Intuits decision to open up its PaaS offering
Intuit is a provider of business and financial management solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises; financial institutions, including banks and credit unions; consumers; and accounting professionals. Its flagship products include QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax. Founded in 1983, it had annual revenues of $3.2 billion in its fiscal year 2009. The partnership is a good milestone in the companys careful and pragmatic approach to cloud computing. It builds on its decision to open up its PaaS offering in 2009 by:
- providing integration with third-party SaaS offerings (federated applications, in Intuits parlance) running on other PaaS (June)
- open sourcing some of its IPP technology (July)
- opening Quickbook financial data to federated applications (October).
These decisions bolstered its IAC marketplace (also launched in October), which offers pre-integrated applications from Intuit, its partners and soon Microsofts partners followed by Microsoft itself. Intuit handpicks the applications though: so far there are only about 40 of them.
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