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Feature: Enterprise Applications

QuickBooks is now available for Linux servers -- but not for Linux desktops

By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on June 14, 2007 (12:31:00 AM)

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The press release started with the words, "Answering the call for an open source option from Information Technology professionals, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU) announced today that businesses will soon be able to operate QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions® from Linux servers. It is the first time the company has made one of its products available to users of open source systems." Except QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions itself is not now and may never be open source. And even though a Linux version of the server software is now available for Linux, you will still need Windows on your desktops to use it.

Angus Thomson, vice president and general manager of the Intuit Mid-Market Group, told Linux.com that a number of QuickBooks users who attended an Intuit user conference last year said they were running most of their business functions on Linux and didn't want "the pain of separate Windows servers" just to run QuickBooks.

Thomson says Intuit's studies show that 20% of QuickBooks users run Linux servers. And since he says there are 600,000 companies in the US with between 10 and 500 employees -- the market segment targeted by QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions -- that means there may be well over 100,000 potential QuickBooks users out there who will eagerly scarf up the program's Linux version.

According to Thomson, neither Sage MAS 90 nor Great Plains -- which is now owned by Microsoft and has been renamed Microsoft Dynamics GP -- offer a Linux server option, and he regards these two programs as the primary competitors to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.

The minimum price for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is ,000 for a five-seat license. Ten seats costs ,500, and 20 costs ,500, including support for one year. After the first year, annual support contracts range from 0 for five users to ,500 for 20 users.

However, you will still need Windows desktops, or at least Citrix-based Windows thin clients, to use the Linux server version of QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. And you will need to run either openSUSE or Fedora (or presumably their commercial cousins), according to the (PDF) QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions Linux Database Server Manager Installation and Configuration Guide.

Companies that run their servers on Debian or Debian-derived distributions are apparently supposed to stick to open source accounting/ERP packages such as Compiere, Adempiere or WebERP. Or, if they insist on using QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, they will have to work with RPMS, because neither .deb nor source packages are available.

What about plans for QuickBooks on the Linux desktop? Thomson said, "We don't find that to be a compelling need today." He said Inuit makes product decisions "based on what we hear from clients," and that they are "not hearing any demand" for a desktop Linux version of QuickBooks.

A Linux server version of what Thomson describes as the "top end of the QuickBooks line" may not be a big move toward Linux, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Maybe this product will do well enough that, someday, Intuit will consider producing Linux versions of desktop QuickBooks, Quicken, and TurboTax.

On the other hand, it's also possible that before long FOSS accounting and bookkeeping packages -- which have been improving slowly but surely -- will eliminate the need for proprietary bookkeeping and accounting software before Inuit opens its corporate ears wide enough to hear the growing demand for Linux-based desktop financial software.

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