Who remembers the good ol’ days of money management software? Back when the only two options people really had were Intuit’s Quicken or Microsoft Money? I remember using MS Money on my Gateway computer. It was one of the primary benefits of the machine. Using it made me feel like I was on the cutting edge and using technology to make my life better.
So what happened?
The internet made it so, if you had an idea, you could get it easily into the hands of users. No need to produce a bunch of CDs. No need to have huge marketing budgets to buy ad time on TV.
Whenever a new money management software product was created, it’d get the internet forums buzzing…..and these were people, who like me, were anxious to make technology work for them.
It didn’t hurt that some of these products were good, really good.
During this same decade, the banking industry was competing for people. The tools the big banks are now offering look like an integrated money management software package. And thanks to the disappearing of float and in conjunction with online bill pay, your account balance is accurate. They also put your transactions into categories for you based upon where you spent your money. It’s just “one more benefit” you get by banking with them.
It was too much for Microsoft. Citing these factors, they announced they are discontinuing MS Money in 2009.
During this same year, Intuit took another route – they purchased the free online money management software site, Mint.com. In September 2009, the New York Times reported this:
Companies like Intuit that sell boxed software have been struggling to gain their footing on the Web as free, online financial start-ups like Mint, SmartyPig and Wesabe have surged in popularity for their simplicity and ease of use, said Emmett Higdon, a senior analyst with Forrester Research who specializes in the online banking industry.
Quicken seems like something your dad uses,” Mr. Higdon said. Younger, Web-savvy users “aren’t likely to sit down nightly and enter in a bunch of financial information online,” he said. “These sites appeal to the iPhone audience.”
In June, Microsoft discontinued sales of its boxed finance software, Microsoft Money Plus, but consumers can still find many similar functions on Microsoft’s MSN Money Web site. It is a clear indication that online personal-finance sites are starting to have an impact, said Stessa Cohen, research analyst at Gartner Research.
Yes, the day of online money management software has arrived and brought with it a host of good options to consumers. What’s ironic is that, while all this has been too much for the two biggest players in the industry, this evolution hasn’t killed the simple budget spreadsheet. In true “survival of the fittest” form, it’s simplicity will keep it alive forever. But every day, people continue to move their finances into these tools and will continue to do so as the years pass. If you haven’t spent any time in these products, go browse the list of money management software products that I’ve reviewed and get reconnected with what is now available.