Stupid? Quicken moves to subscription model for software – UPDATE

I have long been a user of Quicken products ever since the very first DOS-based versions came out. Most of the time I’ve upgraded either when significant new features were added or when it was required due to a new OS. The most significant and important update to Quicken came when it started supporting direct transaction downloads from financial institutions making it a lot simpler to balance, categorize and see snapshots of financial health.

Maybe a little more than a decade ago, Quicken moved to a planned “sunset” product lifecycle model where each new version now had a lifespan of 3 years. After 3 years, the product would no longer function for downloading (or importing) transactions and it wouldn’t receive any bug or security fixes. About a year ago, Intuit, the owners of Quicken, decided to sell off its consumer products (Quicken) to private equity firm, HIG Capital which put the product’s future in limbo.

Quicken now requires “membership”

Well the other shoe dropped this week. About 3 days ago, I received a CD-ROM in the mail gleefully announcing my invitation to upgrade to Quicken 2018 (we are currently using Quicken 2016 Home & Business). On opening it up, the headline says “The new 2018 release of Quicken is here. With the convenience of our new membership plan”. (And yes, that’s exactly how they worded it: a complete sentence with period followed by a fragment.)

Uh, “membership plan” sounds like subscription to me. After looking further, the new ownership has indeed changed the way Quicken is being sold from now on. Instead of buying a version every three years, now you are forced to buy a one or two year “membership plan”. The problem is, both plans are basically priced the same as buying ONE three-year sunset version each year. A to Quicken Home & Business now costs $99/year where I used to be able to buy the 3-year sunset version for $89 at Costco.

Cost tripled

Bottom line, Quicken has more than TRIPLED the cost of its software overnight. To make matters worse, the 2018 version comes with really no new features other than some minor improvements to reporting and a more consolidated bill paying window. Whoopee. Against this, Quicken as a product, has become more and more buggy. A quick trip onto the Quicken support forums shows that the 2017 version is riddled with issues ranging from lockups to data file corruption to continued lack of connectivity to financial institutions.

Generally, when companies RAISE prices, they do so from a position of strength. Their products may be in high demand. The demand curve may be relatively inelastic. The new replacement product may be really “new and improved”. In Quicken’s, I don’t see any of those conditions. The market for desktop and app-based financial programs isn’t strong. Given the number of discount schemes I’ve seen from Intuit to sell Quicken over the years, I can’t believe the demand curve is anything but elastic. And finally, it’s clear the company is not selling anything “new or improved”.

Just today, Quicken’s new CEO, Eric Dunn, issued a corporate ‘splainer trying to couch this hot mess as a consumer benefit. You can read his tortured “letter” here: From Eric Dunn, CEO of Quicken: Letter to the Quicken Community about the Membership Plan

What will you do?

So some questions for all you Quicken users. Will you upgrade to the subscription model when your current sunset version runs out? If not, how do you plan to deal with not using Quicken any more? What are the favored alternatives out there? There are several open-source programs including GnuCash, Tryton, KMyMoney and LedgerSMB that all support online banking. There are also other proprietary programs including MoneyDance and MoneyWiz as well as SAS solutions such as Mint.com. Do we even need personal accounting/financial management programs any more?

UPDATE

The above mentioned “letter” from Eric Dunn has generated so much negative commentary (I’d guess that the negatives outweigh the pros by 10-to-1) that the thread has been locked by Quicken, Inc. At least they were brave enough to allow comments in the first place, but it’s clear this is a highly unpopular move.

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