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Intuit has come a long way from the days of shrink-wrapped
QuickBooks. Last October, the personal finance software maker jumped on
the software-as-a-service bandwagon with the Intuit Partner Platform, a
cloud-based platform that serves up its applications and those from
third-party partners to small business customers.

The company also unveiled Federated Applications, a native stack of
tools for developers who want to make their existing applications,
written on another platform, available via the Intuit Partner Platform.
By federating the applications, developers can integrate their
applications into the Intuit platform without having to rewrite all
their software code, according to Alex Barnett, group manager of
developer relations at Intuit.

Finally, this week Intuit launched an open-source community site, code.intuit.com, where it provides infrastructure and a hosting service for open-source projects to be built and collaborated on by developers.

“We want to provide really great services that solve real business
problems,” Barnett said. “We have our own solutions but we are also
partnering to bring applications to market and we need to make sure we
can be as broad of a tent as possible and a great experience for
developers.”

Intuit’s goal with its SAAS platform is much more modest than a
company such as Apple has for its applications store, Barnett said.
Intuit’s looking to be highly targeted and host applications that meet
specific needs of a small business, defined by Intuit as companies with
fewer than 500 employees.

The company has 30 applications available as a service from
third-party partners today, and would like to get that number into the
“hundreds,” Barnett said.

“If a developer has a great idea to solve small business problem,
they can go ahead and build from scratch on our platform or federate to
us,” he said. “We have open arms.”

One of the hallmarks of the Intuit Partner Platform is that
customers have single sign-on capabilities to any of the applications
they choose to subscribe to as a service. Many customers combine
applications such as CRM with e-mail or an accounting solution, he
said. Also, when a customer changes data in one application, such as a
mailing database update, that data change is propagated automatically
to all the other application services they are using, he said.

From a business model perspective, Intuit bills the customer on a
monthly basis and then funnels a percentage of the revenue back to the
third-party partner in a revenue-sharing agreement.

“Customers are demanding more and more connectivity between the
solutions they work with,” he said. “We want to provide a foundational
platform.”