The world's largest software company is shelving its personal-finance program. It will no longer sell Microsoft Money Plus by month's end. That's probably old news to you. Fellow Fool Anders Bylund covered the story when it broke two weeks ago.
However, what few seem to be reporting is that Intuit
Just six days after Microsoft eulogized Money Plus -- a move that should surprise no one, since Microsoft wasn't putting out annual updates or selling the program through retail stores -- Intuit slashed its prices. It's marking down its Quicken programs by $20 to $50 a copy through the end of July, as it works with Microsoft for a solution to port data seamlessly into fresh copies of Quicken.
Before you score this one "Intuit 1, Microsoft 0," ask yourself why the victor is resorting to markdowns. Shouldn't the elimination of a rival provide greater flexibility to maintain or increase pricing?
The answer is fairly simple: Intuit didn't beat Microsoft. The Internet beat Microsoft. Just as Microsoft is rolling out online versions of Exchange and Outlook, in a move to compete with cheaper, nimbler cloud-computing alternatives, the cloud has also altered the world of personal-finance applications. In the end, it was just no longer feasible for Money to compete with free server-stored solutions.
Banks and discount brokers have been beefing up their online interfaces over the years. Their offerings don't always have all of the features that Microsoft and Intuit provide, but they'll do in a pinch.
Then you have the explosion of free personal-finance sites that help registered users manage their money. We've partnered with Mint.com at the Fool, and there are many more worthy platforms out there, including Wesabe and Yodlee. Even Intuit knows how to play this game, with its free, Web-based Quicken Online.
But Microsoft isn't entirely bowing out of personal-finance enlightenment. It obviously isn't going to pull the plug on MSN Money, its finance portal that competes with Yahoo!
It clearly has the money. Why couldn't it just keep the Money?
The world according to Microsoft:
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz hasn't fired up Money in years, but he remembers when it used to come with many of his computer purchases. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.