Quicken 2007 lacks Universal appeal

Scan through the press materials trumpeting Intuit’s new release of Quicken Mac 2007, and you’ll see lots of verbiage devoted to lots of features such as 401(k) management, detailed paycheck entries, and a widget for entering data on the fly. But there’s one word you won’t see: Universal .

It’s not an inadvertent omission. The major overhaul to the personal finance management application released Tuesday arrives without adding native support for Intel-based Macs. It’s not a fatal flaw—Quicken runs under Apple’s Rosetta emulation technology, albeit not as fast as it might if Intuit released an Intel-native version. (Though to be fair, an Intuit spokesperson says that the performance gains from having a native version of Quicken to run on an Intel-based Mac are negligible.) Still, the absence of native Intel support doesn’t speak to a very deep understanding of the Mac marketing on Intuit’s part.

After all, this is the second major upgrade to Quicken since Apple unveiled its Intel transition plans at the 2005 Worldwide Developers Conference. There was a valid reason for Quicken 2006 not running natively on Intel-based Macs—it shipped less than two months after Steve Jobs announced the switch to Intel-supplied processors and long before any Core Duo-powered hardware arrived on the scene. But with an entire year between the Intel transition announcement and the release of Quicken Mac 2007, it would seem like Intuit had enough advance warning to include native Intel support in this version.

Again, I’ll readily concede that, in the greater scheme of things, having a program like Quicken that doesn’t really tax a Mac’s processor isn’t that big of a deal—until you consider the context. Intuit has a fairly colorful history with Mac users—the company dropped support for a Mac version of QuickBooks back for five years back in the late ’90s. Even now, the revived Mac version isn’t on par with its Windows counterpart. Given that history, it’s only human nature for Mac users to see Intuit not produce a Universal version of Quicken and wonder what that means about the company’s interest in this platform.

Intuit told Macworld that it put its focus on “features that customers told us were the most important”—the aforementioned 401(k) and detailed paycheck additions, namely. That may well be, but I have a hard time believing that native support wouldn’t be near the top of the wish lists for most Intel-based Mac owners. And I have a really hard time believing it’s not at the top of Apple’s wish list, given the company’s own stepped-up efforts to update its apps to run natively on both PowerPC and Intel machines.

Boy, if there only there was someone at Intuit with some special insight into Apple’s strategic desires—someone like…and I’m just free-associating here… Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell who also has a seat on Apple’s Board of Directors. Someone almost exactly like that.

Huh. Well, maybe he’s been out of the room getting coffee every time the Intel transition’s come up at board meetings during the past year.

Ah, but we kid because we do not understand. And Intuit could do its part to help us understand by answering some of the lingering questions that are out there. Will Quicken Mac 2007 get an update at some point so that it runs natively on an Intel Mac? Or will Intel Mac users have to wait until the next major overhaul a year from now? And does this mean that QuickBooks will face a similar fate?

Intuit should think about providing some clear answers to those questions—not for my benefit and not for its own sake, but for the benefit of the Quicken users who have bought MacBooks and iMac Core Duos and who are now being asked to pay anywhere from $50 to $70, depending on rebates, for a program that doesn’t run natively on their hardware.

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