Learn Why Intuit Stops Supporting Products Every Few Years

In my social networking travels, I saw a tweet from someone who was upset that Intuit®, through its sunset policy, was “forcing her to upgrade” to a new version of QuickBooks®. I’ve heard similar complaints from clients before, but I just don’t believe that it’s all part of some evil plot to force upgrades on users.

Sunsetting is when a company chooses to stop supporting an older product. For QuickBooks users, in addition to the end of actual technical support, this also means discontinuation of Payroll, Credit Card Processing, Bill Pay, Online Banking, QuickBooks E-mail, Accountants Copy Transfer Service and some other functions. Users are free to work in older versions as long as they like. For example, I have a client who still uses QuickBooks 2002, but technical support and some added functions are no longer available.

Intuit’s® policy, at least since 2007, has been to sunset QuickBooks’ versions at about three and a half years after their release. For instance, QuickBooks 2010 came out in October of 2009 and will sunset on May 31, 2013.

A few years might seem a little fast when compared to software like the Microsoft Office suite, which gets about six years in mainstream support, but that’s not an equivalent comparison. Office doesn’t do what QuickBooks does. It doesn’t connect to external services like QuickBooks can, and Office just isn’t as critical. If Office crashes, you use another computer to type a document or open a spreadsheet. If QuickBooks crashes, business stops for many companies.

Microsoft Office isn’t constantly changing, either. Sure, it sees tremendous change every few years (how much did you hate 2010’s Ribbon when it first came out?), but once a version is released, the software is static for that entire six-year run. Based on testing and input from everyday users,Intuit makes changes to QuickBooks every single year. That means every year the differences between versions multiply as Intuit discovers what works best for users, fixes problems and adjusts the program to work better – all while operating systems and platforms are changing in the background.

So, at any given time, Intuit has to provide tech support for three or four different versions of QuickBooks that run on three or four different operating systems, while maintaining the infrastructure and software to allow these versions to communicate with payroll, credit card processing, the file transfer service, and other areas. Not only is it a potential support nightmare, but somebody has to pay for it. Longer software life would translate into more expensive software.

For some, the annual version change begs the question, “Why don’t they just do it right the first time instead of having to improve it and fix it constantly?”

Do you know of something better than QuickBooks? I can rattle off the names of some very powerful accounting systems, but they start at around $15K. There’s nothing in this price range that works as well as QuickBooks. A few upstarts are trying, and I’m certain they will drive more changes into future QuickBooks versions, but the only real competitor, Peachtree, isn’t anywhere close. QuickBooks is the best we’ve got. What makes it the best, as much as I hate to use this phrase, is constant improvement.

I do love a good conspiracy theory, but I just don’t see it here. Why put so much effort into each new version if the goal is just to force an upgrade? Intuit isn’t just slapping on a new label every year. They actually add new features and benefits. This is about service and pricing. Do you want to pay a lot more for something that lasts longer in static-form, or pay less for something that isn’t supported as long, but gets better* all the time?

*Except for the online banking nightmare from 2009, but everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then. Long live Register Mode!