Quicken Gets Fresh, Gobbles Up Mint

It's September, and companies are shaking off their summer torpor, counting their remaining employees, and deciding that they have a bit of extra cash to buy up other companies. The latest news: Intuit, whose Quicken has pretty much cornered the market for financial software, has now picked up one of the few applications that could challenge its dominance: Mint.com.

Mint.com is an example of one of those startups that began as a project by a bunch of people with an interesting idea and not much financial backing, and who managed, by putting together a good product and involving their users in publicizing the service, to become a leader in their corner of the universe. To the point where they were often touted as an up-and-coming David challenging Intuit's Goliath.

So what does Goliath do if he can't manage to kill David? He buys him off.

Although I've never used Mint.com, and understand why the company owners would take what is essentially a really sweet deal, I can't help feeling a bit sad about the whole thing. Quicken is a well-honed and highly useful software product, but the company has, through a policy of forced upgrades and other heavy-handed promotional strategies, managed to annoy at least some of its users. While many have stayed because there simply weren't any alternatives, or have stuck with out-of-date versions despite the loss of some functionality (and here, an admission: I'm currently using a year-old version of Microsoft Money), others were relieved to find that a new, younger generation of software entrepreneurs were challenging Intuit with services such as Mint.com.

I can't help wondering what Mint.com users are thinking right now. In an article for TechCrunch, Aaron Patzer, CEO and founder of Mint.com, writes that users can "expect Mint.com and Quicken Online to remain free."

That would be nice. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what Mint.com is like in a year's time -- and if anyone else has stepped up to challenge Inuit's giant.

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