Visa, Mastercard or Microsoft?

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NEW YORK: They couldn't buy it, so now they're trying to kill it. Microsoft, which abandoned its bid to acquire Intuit and its popular Quicken program amid antitrust allegations, is pursuing a partnership with Visa International instead. The top software and credit card providers, respectively, said Wednesday that they would team up to offer online banking services in an attempt to break Intuit's lock on the personal-finance software market. Quicken gained its 80 percent niche by allowing users to pay their bills electronically, with the processing handled by Intuit. The Microsoft-Visa plan would allow people to pay bills directly from their bank accounts using the rival program Microsoft Money, which now commands a scant 10 percent market share. "They're trying to strengthen their existing product," says TIME's Philip Elmer DeWitt. "But there's a lot of action in online transactions now. It's best not to be tied to any commercial product, any operating system or any bank card."