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Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU), a trusted name for some 4 million small business customers who manage their finances using the Quickbooks software, is bringing a bit of the cloud to the desktop. The company, like so many others these days, is unveiling an app store of its own and opening its API to developers who want to free the financial data of Quickbooks 2010 into custom apps.

But instead of just putting it out there for customers, the company is embedding a button link to the apps marketplace into the desktop product. It’s an interesting approach - putting a “cloud” element in desktop software - but execs at Intuit say that their customers are taking baby steps into the cloud and aren’t necessarily interested into full-swing jump into Web-based software.

The company is quick to point out that it’s not automatically sending anyone’s financial data into the cloud. Nor is this some sort of sign that Intuit is trying to move its customers from client-based software to cloud-based apps. But it does offer those who might be interested in testing the cloud a way to do just that.

In some ways, it struck me that Intuit is offering something competitive to what Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) is offering with its AppExchange program, which allows developers to build custom apps and upload them to the salesforce app marketplace. That becomes even more obvious when you consider that many Quickbooks users also it to manage their customer lists and relationships - something that salesforce was built to do.

Developers are creative enough and smart enough to build apps that take advantage of the Intuit’s open API and then put integrate them with salesforce. Intuit gets that. But it also thinks it has a unique marketplace for small businesses and that many of them can benefit from it.

During an interview, I also talked to Intuit execs about the potential consumer market around custom apps for programs such as Quicken and TurboTax. After all, Intuit’s software has revolutionized personal finance software and consumers are far more savvy about their own finances, especially after some of the lessons we’ve learned from the economic downturn, than they were a decade or so ago

For now, Intuit is focused on Quickbooks and small businesses - but if the apps take off for that market, it’s not a big reach to explore the same concept for consumers. For anyone who’s trying to re-take control of their personal finances in these tough economic times, a push into consumer could be welcomed with open arms.

Source: Intuit Enhances Quickbooks by Bringing in Cloud Apps