Accounting juggernaut Intuit has made some significant enhancements to its online accounting services and will announce today a series of new apps and partner supplying vendors. The Intuit Partner Platform and Intuit Anywhere SaaS solutions will make it easier for small businesses to extend their existing QuickBooks accounting software tools by federating user's identity across participating vendors.

Similar to how Facebook Connect works, once a user logs into any online QuickBooks account, they can elect to share their accounting data with a number of third party products, including Bill.com, Freshbooks.com, Salesforce.com, Mavenlink.com and others. "We established the Intuit Partner Platform to give developers easy-to-use tools to access the critical data stored in QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online so they can create innovative offerings for our 5 million customers," said Alex Chriss, director of the Intuit Partner Platform.

Currently, the online apps store has more than 100 apps from both Inuit and third-party providers, but until today there was no easy way to share data across the apps. That has changed, and Intuit has crafted a common data structure that its partners can access. Given that there are more than four million desktop QuickBooks users, the opportunity is large. Intuit Anywhere will make this possible by having a set of tools for app developers to incorporate widgets into their app's workflow, so that customers can authenticate themselves to their QuickBooks data using a single sign-on ID.

There are a few barriers, however. First, not all four million desktop users are online users. To take advantage of the new services, a desktop user would have to sign up for an online account and transfer their desktop data to the cloud. However many users, like myself, are running outdated versions of software that can't interact with the online services and need to upgrade to at least 2010 versions of QuickBooks to be able to first transfer their accounting information to the cloud.

Second, not all of the apps available online have been set up yet for federation and data sharing: expect this to take some time as the app developers update their versions. Several of them were announced by Intuit that are available today, including Bill.com, Concur, eBay, FreshBooks, Mavenlink and MethodCRM.com.

Finally, the federated identity does bring some complexity along with the ease of sharing information, and app developers will have to learn these programming interfaces.

To that end, Intuit will host an IPP CloudJam at its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters on Aug. 9 - 10. Developers will be able to learn more about Intuit Anywhere and spend time coding alongside the Intuit Partner Platform team. And the company is in the process of judging entries for its Apps Showcase to be held August 11th, where it will award $100,000 in prizes to the best apps.