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Microsoft and Intuit forge small business Web apps partnership

Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud and the Intuit App Center online application store are lynchpins of the arrangement

Microsoft is working with a company it once tried to acquire, Intuit, in an effort to boost delivery of Web applications to small businesses, leveraging cloud computing.

The companies plan to integrate the Intuit App Center online application store with Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud application deployment platform, enabling development of applications on Azure for access via App Center. Azure becomes a "preferred platform" for small business cloud application development on the Intuit Partner Platform.

[ InfoWorld's Savio Rodriguez says Intuit's open source play last year was all business. ]

Developers and channel partners can offer solutions to small business that use Intuit QuickBooks financial software. Applications ranging from CRM to event management to Web conferencing are anticipated.

"What we're doing for the developer is combining the Intuit Partner Platform and Azure," said Alex Chriss, director of the Intuit Partner Platform. Services will be provided for the applications including billing, authentication and data APis to connect to QuickBooks.

"This is basically bringing the Azure platform to all of those developers so they can quickly build cloud applications and have them integrated into the QuickBooks data stores," said Kim Akers,  general manager of evangelism at  Microsoft. "Then, [developers] have a channel so they can sell those applications that they just built."

"I think it's a pretty significant announcement for these two SMB-focused industry leaders to come together and work together," said analyst Sanjeev Aggarwal, founder and partner at SMB Group. Microsoft's recent discontinuance of its Microsoft Office Accounting software, which competed with Intuit, probably helped in bringing about the partnership, Aggarwal said.

"I'm sure that [lent] positive synergy to the deal," he said.

Azure will be named by Intuit as a "preferred platform" for small business cloud application development on the Intuit Partner Platform. Developers can access the free beta version of the Windows Azure SDK  for Intuit Partner Program. Developers can use the Microsoft Visual Studio development platform or other tools.

Also as part of the announcement, Microsoft in the fourth quarter of this year plans to make available Microsoft Online Services applications, including Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online via Intuit App Center.

Microsoft had tried to acquire Intuit in 1994 but later abandoned the effort after facing opposition from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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