Have you ever wondered about the resources and platforms used by the brain trusts and engineering teams behind products like QuickBooks, TurboTax, Quicken, or the extremely popular consumer web success story Mint.com? The company behind all of these products is Intuit.

Let’s take a look at the native and federated platforms available today that allow any developer to reach a potential market of 25 million users within 4 million small businesses.

Going Native

Last month the Intuit Innovation Gallery Walk showcased dozens of development experiments, betas and pilots built on top of Intuit technology and services. One of the biggest take away items for developers is that Intuit provides a marketplace to their installed base of customers.

The Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) provides for a native SaaS approach. Two key features of “going native” are as follows:

  • Developers can build and deploy SaaS apps that are integrated with QuickBooks data
  • Because of the vetted Intuit hosted platforms, these SaaS apps are immediately exposed and discoverable to a potential market of millions of users and small businesses using QuickBooks

During the event, Intuit brass including the CTO, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Architect were on hand as well as all of the product managers and engineers behind the demos on display. It is clear that IPP was the big story in the room.

Some of the numbers shared by Intuit regarding the vibrancy of their web business were rather startling. Specifically, over 67% of the Intuit business is conducted through web properties.

In addition to that impressive 67%, Intuit indicated that this number was growing. While they would not say how fast that number was growing, it indicates that anyone that considers Intuit to be a company that sells software out of a cardboard box should rethink that position.

If you review the makeup of the Intuit team behind IPP you start to notice the trend of an application hosting platform that targets similar appeal of other cloud or elastic approaches. Simply put, IPP is about getting developers to derive greater value from a massive install base of Intuit products that are increasingly online vs. the stand along desktop software on a PC. Indeed, the IPP team is about a highly targeted form of the cloud.

Getting started on IPP is a simple series of steps:

  1. Register with IDN
  2. Register with WorkPlace
  3. Register with Code.intuit.com
  4. Download and Install Software

The first three are simply filling out web forms, accepting terms, etc… the last step is a bit more involved. But hey… you got this far, right?

Right! Onward!

At this point you have access to the following workflow:

  1. You set up a QuickBase database and then use Adobe Flex Builder 3.0 with the IPP SDK to develop the SaaS application.
  2. Within Intuit Workplace, you create isolated development environments and then publish the application to staging.
  3. The WorkPlace sync agent facilitates integration of subscribers’ QuickBooks data so that changes to data in your SaaS application are reflected within the subscriber’s QuickBooks product–and visa-versa.
  4. When you upload an application, you determine the pricing plan and Intuit takes care of the rest including billing (subscription fee collection) and making developer payments.
  5. (emphasis mine)

In simpler terms: Register, Create, PROFIT!

Earlier this week, the IPP Intuit Data Services for QuickBooks Online API was made available as an open beta for all developers building applications on IPP. The goal is to allow for developers to begin selling QBO-integrated IPP apps via Intuit App Center by early 2011. (We’ll take a closer look later today on RWH.)

If you are an Adobe Flex developer already, would you consider building to take advantage of the IPP? Let us know in the comments below!