Microsoft, Intuit Target SMBs In Cloud Deal

As part of this tie-up, Intuit on Wednesday released a Windows Azure software development kit for its Intuit Partner Platform, which comes with APIs for single sign-on, billing, and data integration. The idea is to enable Azure developers to build apps on Intuit's platform and sell them on Intuit's App Center, which already includes a range of SMB focused tools, according to Alex Chriss, director of the Intuit Partner Platform.

Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing development platform, is currently in production and will launch as a paid service on Feb. 1. For developers getting their feet wet in Azure, the Intuit deal offers access to Quickbook's user base of more than 27 million. Intuit channel partners, meanwhile, will gain access to a broader array of offerings.

"Azure developers that build great apps can get them in front of customers on the Intuit's App Center and actually make money," said Chriss.

In the fourth quarter, Microsoft will begin selling its Business Productivity Online Suite, which includes hosted versions of Exchange, Sharepoint, and Office Communication Server, on Intuit's App Center. Microsoft has been getting traction for BPOS in enterprises, but the small business segment is a much more hotly contested space where products like Google Apps and Zoho have a strong following.

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Microsoft slashed the price of BPOS in November to make it more competitive with these offerings, and the more places it can get BPOS in front of small business customers, the better. Indeed, the SMB space is an area where cloud computing's efficiencies have made themselves readily apparent.

"The cloud is a very appealing offer for small businesses," said Kim Akers, general manager for Global Partners at Microsoft. In addition to avoid hardware infrastructure purchases, cloud apps can also remove the cost of managing these applications, she added.