The biggest news of a very news filled several days is that Intuit will announce today that they will launch a PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering for developers wishing to target the 3 million strong QuickBase market. I came across this news via Bob Warfield at SmoothSpan, and his analysis of the coming announcement is thorough and very intriguing. You may or may not know this, but Intuit is completely changing their business model, moving away from shrink-wrap and going completely towards a SaaS/PaaS model.
The PaaS offering (officially the "QuickBase Developer Program") is in private beta right now (request an invite), and perhaps most closely aligned with Salesforce.com's force.com offering; namely it provides a platform for developers to add value to Intuit's existing and coming online products. The platform uses Adobe's Flex for client development and QuickBase for the server, a decision that clearly meets with Bob's approval. (Hmmm. Which to learn first, Python or Flex?) See Bob's post for the nitty gritty details, however.
I am most excited about the philosophical difference between Intuit's approach and Salesforce.com's approach. First and foremost, Intuit seems to be stating up front that they are committed to supporting data portability, and keeping it relatively simple for developers to move data off of their platform. Bill Lucchini, VP and GM of Inutit QuickBase was directly quoted as saying:
We never want to lock anyone in. But we want the customer to choose us because we offer more value. That’s why we didn’t create our own language like Apex, we chose Flex. We won’t stop anybody from leaving. Vendors have to double down and work harder to keep customers loyal.Now, truth is that if no one else uses Flex (except maybe Adobe) and you are using Intuit's libraries, the code is locked in...at least until Intuit either open sources or licenses its platform components to other capacity providers. However, data is another issue, and having a PaaS vendor commit to data portability is incredibly refreshing.
Update: Bob and I have had a little comment exchange    on whether or not there really is lock-in here. Bob makes a good point about the portability of a Flex client, but I counter it is the end-to-end functionality that is locked in to Intuit, not just the client, and that this is probably OK with a large class of potential users. Just not large enterprises.