Annals of Software Obsolescence: Intuit is Even More Evil than I Though

In an earlier post I explained how Intuit was trying to force customers happily using earlier versions of their Quicken software to buy new updated copies by destroying the ability of users of older Quicken versions to download financial statements from banks and credit cards in the most useful format, web connect (which I've since learned Intuit refers to as OFX). I also noted that a much less-useful format, QIF files, remained available.

Well, looks like Intuit is closing even that loophole: starting with Quicken 2005, users will no longer have the option of importing QIF files for Checking, Savings, Brokerage and 401(k) accounts — the kind that have the most activity and thus most need online updating.

As a result, when Intuit decides to obsolete customers' ability to download their bank statements, as it just did to me, the entire user base will either have to go to manual entry or buy a new copy of the Quicken program.

That's forced obsolescence with a vengeance.

It's clear that Intuit is not doing this because of a technical decision to rip out the QIF part of its code, since several account types will still support it:

• Credit Card (Until Quicken 2006)
• Asset accounts
• Liability accounts
• Cash accounts
• Small business payable accounts
• Invoice accounts from Financial Institutions

And, it's only a matter of time before Quicken users will not longer be able to write .qif files either—making it that much harder to export their data to a competitor's program.

I suppose we'll see more and more of this anti-consumer behavior as software for more and more functions hits a sweet spot where it's 'good enough' that users don't feel a need to upgrade anymore.

I may buy one more discount copy of Quicken because I don't have the energy to change now and there's no obvious alternative. But I sure hope it's my last one.

Below I reprint some of Intuit's mendacious 'explanations' for the change, with a few comments.

Q: Since Intuit's customer support center uses QIF to import customers' data files — how will you get this information from customers if you discontinue the ability to import QIF?
A: While QIF technology is becoming obsolete and does not offer the accuracy and speed of download via OFX, there are still a handful of circumstances that make QIF Import the only way to convert your data. For these limited customer support circumstances we want to make sure that we leave QIF Import available.

In other words, we could leave QIF as an option with no extra coding work, but we won't so that we can control our customers.

Q: Why is Intuit doing this?
A: OFX offers customers an easier, faster and more accurate download experience and allowed us to create Express Setup in Quicken 2004 for Windows. Quicken has been and will continue to support OFX which is the industry standard for transaction download. Intuit is committed to helping the industry transition to Open Financial Exchange (OFX). This industry standard was first introduced in 1997 with the release of Quicken 98.

We have announced the changes to QIF Import with the release of Quicken 2004 for Windows as the first phase of a two phase roll out. Phase one is notifying customers who use QIF of the upcoming changes. In phase two, with Quicken 2005 for Windows, QIF Import will no longer be available. We want to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible by notifying our customers of the changes and allowing our Financial Institution partners more time to move to OFX.

Yes, both banks and customers were happy with the old system, but that meant users stopped buying new copies of our products. We can make more money by making people upgrade more often. Too bad for you if you have to do costly work on your bank web site.

Q: How does this impact you if you are exporting data from Quicken?
A: Customers exporting data from Quicken to other applications are not affected by this change at this time.

But look for this enhancement if and when we ever have a real competitor.

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8 Responses to Annals of Software Obsolescence: Intuit is Even More Evil than I Though

  1. Consider GNU Cash. It may do everything you want.
    It can import QIF and OFX data.

  2. Intuit is certainly free to shift to something resembling a yearly-subscription licensing model The question whether or not the way they’re obsoleting older versions is legal. Also: are they selling back-end software to banks under licensing terms that force them to stop using the code that allows their software to communicate with older versions of Quicken? What’s in it for the banks to play along? There must be something.

    As for Gnucash, I would expect it to take two minutes to install and maybe an hour or so to import and clean up your imported data on a contemporary Linux or BSD system. That fellow who had trouble installing did so almost 3 years ago and seemed to be trying to install a version built for one major rev of Linux onto another, during one of those major kernel rev upheavals that come every few years. If you’ve ever tried to install old games on Windows XP or install a .NET RSS reader on an early rev of Windows 2000, you’d know: you can spend hours slashing away at those things, too.

    In the past, crazy people have successfully compiled Gnucash to run under Windows with the Cygwin unixification libraries, bless ’em.

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  6. Santron says:

    They are more evil than you think. Intuit is doing this to the small financial institutions also. We have 25 members that use quicken and they want $2500 a month for the OFX interface. $100 a month for quicken not in my lifetime.

  7. Emilia Belserene says:

    Please I need suggestion of Windows alternatives to Quicken.
    The 2004 version seems to promise to do all sorts of things I do not want. I just want to managy my bank and brokerage accounts and import and export QIF files.
    I don’t want it to rtell me about successful backups to disk that were not successful. Or about importing data that has been expported from another file. Again it says the import was successful when it was not.
    No more Quicken for me. What alternatives are there?


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