We had a sneak peek of the new QuickBooks Online back in January at Macworld Expo, and now the Mac community can start using the service. Intuit announced today that the new release of QuickBooks Online is finally compatible with the Safari browser and, thus, is available to Mac users.
QuickBooks Online, which runs entirely through a web browser, is not a replacement for the full feature set of QuickBooks Pro for Windows, or even QuickBooks for Mac. Instead, QuickBooks Online is a separate product that is positioned as an alternative for those people who require maximum portability and remote access to their accounting information or for multiple users who work in physically separate locations. The main feature missing from QuickBooks Online is inventory management. Otherwise, QuickBooks Online Plus (a $34.95 per month subscription) is very close in comparison to QuickBooks Pro.
If you can get by with fewer features, there is a $9.95 per month option, as well as a free option.
In addition to the Safari browser support, QuickBooks Online has a web interface that has been optimized for the iPhone. Today’s announcement also reveals that the iPhone web app has been updated to allow for more editing on the mobile device than was previously possible. You can now edit customer, vendor and employee information as well as create and send invoices.
These changes to the app will make it accessible to Mac users, but will make it far more useful for those with iPhones, too. I would still like to see timecards in the iPhone app, as this seems like the natural place to do job timesheets for many service companies.
Safari 4? Firefox?
The current release only supports Safari 3.1. Firefox for Mac and the Safari 4 beta will not work. I did try setting the user agent to Safari 3.2.1 using the Develop menu in the Safari 4 beta, and everything seems to work, but Intuit will not support this configuration. Make sure you uninstall the Safari 4 beta, or just live with any potential quirks when setting the user-agent to a different value.
At Last! Multi-user QuickBooks Accounting on the Mac
The most significant reason to take a look at QuickBooks Online is that it finally gives Mac users true multi-user accounting from Intuit. Sure, you could use virtualization to run QuickBooks Pro for Windows or connect to a Terminal Server with Microsoft RDC, but this is a true Mac experience, even if it is online software.
For many, this will be a real boon to be able to share accounting data within a company that uses virtual office space to connect staff in different locations. The small business entrepreneur will be able to check up on things with their iPhone, or their Mac laptop at home.
Take a hard look at the feature list and see if it meets your needs. The problem for Mac users is that this is the only choice from Intuit for multi-user accounting, so we will probably approach it with a different set of needs than a Windows user who is considering it as an entry-level alternative to QuickBooks Pro. Still, $34.95 a month for multi-user accounting without the hassle of virtualization, Windows, etc., is a fair trade for many Mac users.
The Future of Mac Software?
I think it makes great sense for QuickBooks to provide multi-user accounting to the Mac platform through the online version. It has been frustrating to live without multi-user support in QuickBooks for Mac, but I imagine any problems will get fixed faster in QuickBooks Online than waiting for updates to the Mac version. If the Online product continues to grow, then I see how Intuit could eventually drop QuickBooks for Mac entirely. The differences between the Mac and Windows versions have always been frustrating, and by going online only, it would create a scenario where both Mac and Windows users are working with the same data without having to go through a conversion process. Mac users would finally be using the same version of QuickBooks as their Windows counterparts, something we were all hoping would happen on the desktop side first. But if it takes going online to do it, I think most will appreciate the benefits of leaving that Mac-Windows gap in QuickBooks in the past.