Intuit SDKs help you build on popular tax package

[PROGRAMMERS REPORT -Sept 10, 2002] - These days, virtually every major vendor utilizes a developer network to disseminate information and distribute early-access software. Platform vendors (BEA, IBM, Microsoft and Sun, for example) and major application vendors (such as J.D. Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel) are all attempting to build a loyal community of developers this way.

One of the newest companies to employ this strategy is something of a surprise. Personal finance and accounting software maker Intuit Inc. last year quietly launched the Intuit Developer Network. The company has since used the site to provide a growing cadre of third-party developers with SDKs, access to the APIs of various Intuit products, including its flagship QuickBooks applications, and a fat marketing channel.

The idea is simple, Esther Kruijver, Intuit's director of the devnet, told Programmer's Report. Provide the tools and marketing to third-party developers who want to extend the functionality of the QuickBooks products for vertical markets -- markets Intuit would otherwise be unlikely to serve -- and help developers who want to integrate their applications with Intuit's.

'Tighter cooperation between QuickBooks and other third-party applications has been one of the most requested features from our customers over the years,' said Kruijver. As part of its 'Right For My Business' strategy, Intuit has made its devnet a 'major priority,' she said. 'Together with developers, we provide small businesses with more choices for helpful industry-specific and general business applications,' Kruijver added.

The Intuit Developer Network offers four tiers of membership. These range from a no-cost Community Level that provides members with access to technical manuals and documentation downloads, to the QuickBooks 2003 Power Launch membership that allows members to 'share in the limelight of the QuickBooks 2003 launch efforts,' according to company officials.

Intuit expects to unveil Version 2.0 of the QuickBooks SDK soon. This version will not only support data integration with QuickBooks 2003, but will also support data integration with QuickBooks Online Edition and the Canadian version of QuickBooks 2003, said Kruijver. Also look for an SDK that will support data integration with Intuit Master Builder.

A big selling point of the Intuit devnet is its marketing muscle. Through the QuickBooks Solutions Marketplace, the company lists applications -- currently more than 110 -- and gives developers access to an estimated 3 million Intuit customers.

'The developers know their products and markets so well,' Kruijver said. 'Much better than we do, really. But we provide an excellent sales channel that allows them to target a very big market.'

Intuit recently released the second incarnation of its software development kit. The QuickBooks SDK 1.1 features enhancements and tools for enabling data integration between third-party apps and the QuickBooks 2002 products, including QuickBooks Pro 2002, QuickBooks Premier 2002 and QuickBooks Premier: Accountant Edition 2002.

At last count, the QuickBooks SDK had been downloaded more than 50,000 times, noted Kruijver.

Intuit is also about to host its first-ever developer conference, scheduled for November 13 and 14 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, Calif. The conference theme, 'How to make it big with small business,' reflects the company's traditional focus. Intuit is targeting a small audience of developers for its first conference, Kruijver said. 'Developers represent a new customer base for us,' she explained, 'and there's a lot to learn. We want to make sure we do it right before we do it big.'

The two-day conference program includes a hands-on open lab where developers can collaborate, share and write code; an exhibitor showcase; an SDK training seminar; and the opportunity to meet with Intuit executives and employees, as well as network with other Intuit developers.

Related Links:
Intuit Developer Network
Sample IDN apps for QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier 2002

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About the Author

Scott Adams is a senior software engineer for TeamQuest.


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