You don’t often hear a tech exec responsible for a product say that he hates anything about it, but Intuit’s Aaron Patzer is a special case–his dislike of Quicken spurred him to found the excellent online finance site Mint. When Intuit bought Mint last year, Patzer ended being responsible for both Mint and Quicken. The new version of Quicken, Quicken 2011, is the first one to reflect his influence, and it certainly shows the influence of the more modern Mint.
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For quite a few years now, iRobot has all but owned the personal robot sector with its successful line of Roomba cleaning robots. However as the price of manufacture of these types of device comes down and demand begins to grow, we’re beginning to see a lot more entrants into this increasingly competitive sector.
Evolution Robotics’ Mint is one of those new products. Where Roomba’s expertise lies in carpet, the $250 device’s speciality is hardwood and linoleum floors. While iRobot has its Scooba, the price still is a bit prohibitive at $299 (and up to $499 for the top-of-the-line model), and uses proprietary cleaners only available through iRobot itself.
What’s nice about Mint is the fact that it can use everyday wet and dry cleaning cloths that attach to a head much like you find on the Swiffer line of products. In fact, the company is keen to point out that you can use the Swiffer cloths with Mint, which means the cost of operation could potentially be much lower than its competitors.
The robot uses the same types of sensors as the Roomba/Scooba to detect its locations and ensure an even clean, and can run up to three hours on a single charge. Where it beats iRobot is its size — about 3 inches tall and a little bit under 10 inches wide — and the amount of produced noise. I found the Mint in the demonstration I saw to operate much quieter. Additionally sensors detect transitions in the flooring, so it won’t be going over your area rugs or carpets by mistake.
Mint’s price point is certainly aimed at taking iRobot head on, and its choice to allow the use of third-party cloths as I mentioned before is definitely an advantage as well. That said, Evolution and other competitors in the space still have the challenge of proving to the consumer why they would need such a product cause its still a several hundred dollar mop.
I guess however if cleaning floors is really that much of a hassle to you, you’ll pay just about anything to have sombody — or something else — do it.
I just spoke with Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint and general-manager-to-be of Intuit’s personal finance group, about Intuit’s planned $170 million acquisition of Mint and what it means for consumers. A few notes from our discussion on what’s in the works, assuming the merger goes off as planned:
Quicken Online will become a reskinned Mint. It doesn’t make sense for one company to have two Web-based personal-finance services that, while far from identical, are trying to do similar things. The battle between Quicken Online and Mint will end, and it’s Mint that will be the victor: The Quicken Online service will be pretty much the same service as today’s Mint except with Quicken’s red-and-white color scheme, Patzer told me. Current Quicken Online users should see their transactions move into the Mint-powered version, and Patzer hopes that other items such as categories will also be able to make the transition. Why not just kill Quicken Online? Patzer says the Quicken brand name is so familiar that it makes sense for Mint to adapt its identity as well as to keep its own moniker.
Mint features will migrate into Quicken’s desktop software. One core aspect of Mint from the start (and a major part of its business model) has been the way it analyzes your financial life and attempts to recommend offers that make sense for you, such as credit cards and mortgage refinancing deals with lower interest rates. Patzer says the plan is to bring some of this stuff into Quicken’s traditional software version, too.
Quicken desktop isn’t going anywhere. At the moment, it has more advanced features than either Mint or Quicken Online in some areas, such as investments and tax handling. Patzer says Quicken users tend to be older than Mint’s customers (in their 40s and 50s vs. 20s and 30s) and like the security of keeping their financial details local rather than stored on distant servers. So even as Mint and Quicken Online get more sophisticated, there will be a need for Quicken in software form.
Mint will take advantage of Intuit’s back-end. Intuit has a deep portfolio of technologies and partnerships in the areas of online billpay, banking, and the like. Patzer says this should let Mint become a more transactional service–instead of just seeing that a bill is due for payment, you might be able to pay it right inside of Mint.
Mint and TurboTax will meld. You’ll be able to push all the things Mint knows about your financial status, such as gains and losses, into TurboTax Patzer thinks this could dramatically reduce the drudgery of tax time.
Patzer says he knows that some Mint fans are apprehensive about the acquisition, but that they needn’t worry–especially since the Mint management and engineering team will “take a leadership role” in the combined companies.
In other news, he told me that Mint has submitted a new version of its iPhone application to Apple’s App Store. Among the changes: a PIN for added security, push notifications for stuff like bills that are due, and a slicker look.
The TechCrunch story from last night was solid: The first major news at the TechCrunch50 conference this morning was that Intuit is indeed buying personal-finance service Mint for $170 million. Mint founder Aaron Patzer appeared onstage to confirm the acquisition. He also said that the Mint team will be responsible not only for Mint but for the existing Quicken Online service…and the Quicken desktop software. Which might help assuage the fears of Mint fans who are worrying that Intuit will ruin it.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Quicken, Quicken Online, and Mint relate to each other once all this is sorted out…
More TechCrunch50 news to come today and tomorrow–some here, and more at my Twitter feed.
TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington is reporting that personal-finance behemoth Intuit is about to buy Mint, the nifty financial site that has provided stiff competition (as well as inspiration) for Intuit’s Quicken Online. The timing of the report is intriguing: We’re hours away from the start of Arrington’s TechCrunch50 conference, at which Mint deservedly won best of show in the conference’s inaugural edition two years ago.
If the story’s true, it makes sense: Intuit has been scrambling to play catch-up with Mint. The current version of Quicken Online is less rich than the Quicken application, and more focused on folks who want to make sure they have enough money to get through the month, not those thinking about the long haul. But you gotta think that Intuit wants its Web-based tools to be at least as rich and popular as its traditional ones, and that it knows it can’t wait very long to get there. Owning Mint would bring both some cool features and a lot of customers to Intuit.
Would Intuit kill the current Quicken Online and redub Mint with that name? Keep the two services but use the same underlying technology? Use Mint as the primary brand for online personal finance? I have no idea, but it’ll be fun to watch if the deal does go down.
Speaking of TechCrunch50, I’ll be spending much of the next two days at the conference. Stay tuned for live reports on the most interesting stuff that debuts there…
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