Doctor Jekyll and Mister Intuit
Written by Gordon Fecyk, 3/25/2008
INTUIT IS A FAVOURITE VICTIM of mine. This firm of accounting and finance software specialists produces applications designed to input, store and manage sensitive financial information. This is the sort of information that deserves the best security you can buy.
Of course, you know what I think the best security is. It's built into modern versions of Windows. This is why I go to great lengths to make Intuit a good example of a bad design company.
I live for this kind of irony. Software that stores sensitive financial information requires the computerized equivelant of a security blanket. Because anything more than that will break it.
That changed in 2007 with the latest release of the American edition of Quickbooks. Intuit USA promised the SANS Institute that they would fix Quickbooks, and fix it, they did. Of course, I had great fun at Intuit Canada's expense when they didn't follow suit, but I could see that the Canadian edition would someday work. Eventually.
I finally got to try out Intuit Canada's QuickTax 2007 Standard Edition. Like its American counterpart TurboTax, QuickTax is an annual release of basic tax software to help ordinary folks get through April every year.
The American editions of TurboTax sport "Hazardous to your PC's Health" labels, or more seriously, "Windows 2000 and later: Requires administrative privileges." You know me. Nothing says, "DON'T BUY ME!!!!!1111" quite like that kind of label. Curiously, the Canadian editions of QuickTax do not have such a warning. This looked like quite the role reversal. After all, I thought the Canadian arm of Intuit was the backward one after last year's mess.
Instead, the Canadian QuickTax installed on the first try, put the program shortcuts in the right place, fetched updates for me, and then worked correctly on the first try with a limited account.
That's not something I see every day! An application -- a finance application, no less -- that works, and works my way, without any fussing about.
Yes, I find these things exciting. Bear with me.
Intuit deserves a little bit of credit for working with two (or possibly more) greatly differing tax systems and financial rules, and releasing a similar branded product for each. I can understand how differences in tax systems can warrant visible differences in a product. What I don't understand, is how one branded product can have such different software, that one edition overlooks an essential design requirement for modern versions of Windows. This is an operating system that spans six continents, one space station, and forty-six languages.
If Microsoft can do that with one source code base, what's Intuit's excuse?
Then again, Microsoft hasn't yet released a Canadian edition of Microsoft Office Accounting, so Intuit still has an excuse. For now.
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