Think Ahead: Scott Cook

A dispatch from PC Forum 2001.

Scott Cook

Chairman of the executive committee
Intuit

Can you name one idea that was true two PC Forums ago but is no longer valid?

Two years ago, we thought that Internet commerce was about selling goods, moving products in response to orders. And the B2C and B2B movements concentrated on selling products to people over the Web. But the fact is that the majority of businesses around the world can't sell on the Web: They either don't have products, or their products aren't appropriate for the Web (consider restaurants, for example). What's more, most of what organizations buy doesn't even come through a supply chain — it comes through service relationships or the kind of custom design that doesn't translate well to the Web.

The notion that Internet business means selling over the Net has poisoned the industry's thinking. Misunderstanding such a basic concept leads to a whole bunch of wrong answers. The early models — think Amazon.com — have become more important than reality. And the reality is that e-commerce doesn't work alone.

What business opportunity, partnership, or investment are you really excited about today?

The majority of small- and medium-sized businesses don't need products — they need payroll services, purchasing solutions, information sharing, and collaboration support. Intuit has just launched a new effort called QuickBase that facilitates team collaboration on any work that requires sharing information.

Originally, Intuit viewed QuickBase as an investment in a small Boston-based company. Today, QuickBase is central to our strategy as a company. In about 10 minutes, QuickBase can be fully customized to support team collaboration for businesses as diverse as an architectural firm — and its contractors, out-sourced talent, regulatory authorities, and clients — or a manufacturing company. For the first time, Intuit has created an open-system product. We opened up our platform to third-party developers in mid-February, and we already have more than 1,500 developers actively working on solutions for hundreds of different industries. One of the thrilling principles behind this system is something we call NED2 — never enter data twice. We're aiming for NED0 as we continue to innovate on this platform.

What will we be seeing and talking about at next year's PC Forum?

Next year, the conversation at PC Forum will revolve around the post-Napster fallout. We'll see if the copyright holders can put the genie back in the bottle, and we'll see if what started in music — the sharing or theft, depending on your perspective — will expand to printed matter, movies, and even software. Next year, we'll see if we can reap profits from the powerful combination of peer-to-peer and open-source innovation. And we'll see the principle of contributing to the greater good begin to apply to things beyond the software world.

The concept of the Web that Tim Berners-Lee introduced more than 10 years ago has yet to be implemented. We have not kicked into motion the notion of the two-way Web, the notion that every reader is also a writer. The Internet has become a broadcast mechanism. So much of the information that work teams operate with could exist on the Web, but it doesn't — it's in email or voice mail or printouts. We've lost a powerful aspect of the Web, but we are beginning to see some thinking that might bring the initial elegance of the Web back into everyday application.

Learn more about Scott Cook on the Web.

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