Intuit Inc. is getting ready to pull the plug on support for some of its older personal finance-management products.
Starting April 20, Quicken 98 and Quicken 99 users will no longer get online or phone-based tech support; on May 18, Quicken 2000 users will be on their own as well.
On those dates, those users will also lose the ability to pay their bills online with the program and download updated financial data from Intuit's servers -- instead of zapping off their utility bills and having the latest stock prices automatically plugged into their portfolios, they'll get error messages.
Their option will be to spend $39.95 to upgrade to Quicken 2004 Deluxe -- that's including a $20 mail-in rebate -- or to go back to putting paper checks in the mail and typing in stock quotes manually.
Why is Intuit retiring these older versions when they still work fine? A spokesman for the company said that older products like Quicken 98 essentially represent depreciating assets on the company's balance sheet.
"It costs money to provide the data feeds," said Chris Repetto, a public relations manager for Quicken at Intuit. "It's taking money away from us developing new products."
Repetto would not put a figure on how much money is involved in keeping older programs supported and said there is no set rule for when Intuit retires its products. He said the company estimates that the affected users add up to "less than 1 percent" of its total customer base.
Intuit has been alerting owners of these older releases via pop-up Internet notices in the program and e-mail messages. It has more information online at www.intuit.com/support/quicken/sunset/.
Some of the affected members, meanwhile, have alerted their lawyers: A group of users has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in San Jose. Intuit had no comment about the pending litigation.
"Retiring" old software is a touchy issue in the software industry. Older products don't make money for their developers and can be a cash drain. But how much of a lifetime can users rightfully expect?
A request for comments on Intuit's move forwarded to a few mailing lists drew widely varying responses last week, but one thing was clear: When people use a software product for several years -- especially one involved in the intimate details of managing one's financial life -- people tend to get a little attached.
A falling out or a slight can bring a lot of bitterness.
Upgrade fatigue was a common complaint. "I am fed up with Intuit," e-mailed Dorothy Firsching, an annoyed user who had just upgraded to Quicken 2003 last year. "I have no need for a lot of the bloat they have added on to their newer products, yet they continually force you to upgrade. Or switch from them."
"In the 3 or 4 upgrades I've done over my 10 years using Quicken, I think ONE of the upgrades made me stop and say, 'Wow, what a great improvement,"' wrote Mark Feuer, a Quicken 2000 user in Boulder, Colo.
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