Intuit today announced that it is developing QuickBooks Pro 5.0 for Mac OS X, to be available in the first quarter of 2003. What does it do? Intuit won't say, other than that it runs natively in Mac OS X and Mac OS 9. How much will it cost? Sorry, that's a secret, too. Just like a June survey that leaked to the press, Intuit is trying to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt among Macintosh owners: if the great QuickBooks is coming soon, why should I buy MYOB today?
Intuit didn't touch QuickBooks 4 for Macintosh for five years except to provide a legally required Y2K update, abandoning the product in 1996 because controlling 60 percent of the Macintosh accounting market apparently wasn't enough to turn a profit (those figures come from the Wall Street Journal, by the way, from February 1997). MYOB took the challenge and ran with it, making new versions of its software every year, adding an entry-level FirstEdge product this year, and jumping on the Carbon bandwagon early to have a Mac OS X-native program out well over a year ago. Despite all that effort, it took until three months ago - yes, until May 2002 - for MYOB to take the market lead in Macintosh accounting software away from the five-year-old QuickBooks Pro 4.0 that Intuit has continued to sell (without any warnings on the box that the program is outdated and unsupported). Intuit won't even update the payroll tables in QuickBooks; it refers you to Aatrix for a free copy of its compatible payroll program TopPay.
Intuit apparently couldn't stand for MYOB to take the market lead away from its moribund product, so the company issued a survey asking if customers would pay $100 for a Mac OS X-native upgrade, or $279 for new purchases of the product (other people may have seen different prices). The survey didn't discuss any of the new features added to the Windows versions of QuickBooks in five years other than easier-to-configure forms and improved reporting. Take a look at Intuit's comparison chart for the various Windows versions and realize that almost none of those features are in the Macintosh product, nor did Intuit's survey talk about adding them - just charging the same $279 price.
Today's announcement is no better: no promises of parity with QuickBooks Pro for Windows, no discussion of any new features, just a promise to add features to the software in six months for the first time in five years. Intuit's Dan Levin said, "We listened to our customers and they have spoken loud and clear. They want a Mac OS X-compatible version of QuickBooks." Intuit's customers spoke even louder and clearer five years ago that they didn't want the product dropped, and Intuit ignored them. Now, with no specifics whatsoever, Intuit says it will revise the product and "expects to release a new version of QuickBooks for the Mac on approximately an annual basis."
There is no product here, just an announcement from a company with one of the greediest, most cynical, and most customer-unfriendly track records of any Macintosh software company. The sole point of this announcement is to stop you from buying MYOB AccountEdge or MYOB FirstEdge before Intuit can get some unknown version of QuickBooks out the door to milk more money out of a market it determinedly abandoned five years ago. Don't let it fool you.
[Matt Deatherage is the publisher of MacJournals.com, where he oversees MDJ and MWJ - daily and weekly subscription-based, ad-free journals for serious Macintosh users, on hiatus this week. For a free trial, visit MacJournals.com.]