March 2008 Archives

The Browser-less Browser War

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adobe-air.jpg

Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) allows users to run web applications natively on a desktop without having to launch them in an open browser session. This will begin to blur the lines between a PC "fat client" experience and a web browser experience.  One Adobe AIR application for Ebay allows bidders the ability to monitor their auctions without going to the website by having their bid status made available in a Window desktop tray application. There are several other examples from the New York Times, Yahoo and SalesForce.com. I see this move toward Rich Internet Applications (RIA) as significant because of its impact on the SaaS market. One of the biggest drawbacks with hosted office applications for example is the issue of being disconnected and not being able to access user files. Future development in RIA will include the ability to load a small encrypted database on the client side, thereby retaining portions of the user state machine.  The battle has already started at the mobile device level with Microsoft squaring off with Apple. Microsoft recently announced they will support Flash Lite for Windows Mobile while Apple has rejected it for the iPhone "due to performance issues." The truth is Adobe Flash Lite is already on over 450 million flash-equipped mobile handsets today and expected to grow to over 1 billion by 2010. Another major inflection point will be the post-Ajax development world when we see Adobe's new Flex and Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 come in to the picture. The benefit of Flex includes cross-platform, cross-browser interoperability and when combined with creating offline applications utilizing AIR, you have what will become the next browser war in the making - only without the browsers!  I will be posting more regarding Flex, but if you want to see what it can do, go to buzzword.com and create a simple account. You'll think you are interacting with a Mac application when you are really running this over the Internet. The user experience is amazing. Now we just need to add presence, video, click-to-call and collaboration tools in an RIA "widget" thereby increasing the capabilities of this technology.

Mr. Softee at your service ...

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Thumbnail image for Exchange-SharepointCurl.jpgIf you know anything about managing a complex email system like Lotus Notes or MS Exchange, you know it can be a pain. Most companies would prefer to leave it to the experts, especially smaller organizations. Microsoft brought out its online infrastructure services beta this week and will begin to make a name for itself in Managed Services. While the SaaS industry is in the early stages, Microsoft will need time to rework their software to support multitenant architectures. OCS doesn't support a multitenant instance either (by the way, all this means less money for Microsoft, could we see any more PE contraction?). This is still a beta offering for under 5,000 seats. The competitive set includes Google's Postini and Yahoo's Zimbra along with many other niche players. Other Microsoft partners already provide some of these services for enterprises. They will have to carefully maneuver their channel relationships because they rely on a substantial revenue stream from these service partners and systems integrators.

Google-Microsoft-SaaS.jpgBeyond advertising, Software as a Service (Saas) may be the next big opportunity for both companies. A combination of free and fee-based services will ultimately replace software licensing as we know it today. But not very soon. Bob Warfield, with SmoothSpan, has a good quick analysis of why Microsoft would want to go to a SaaS model now that Vista and Office 2007 are released. So far Ray Ozzie's been careful to say, "Software Plus Service."  Microsoft's acquisition of Yahoo can benefit both their advertising push (AdCenter) and SaaS as these intersect in their Online Services Group (MSN and MS Live). The question is what happens when you try to merge them together? You don't want a MSN-Yahoo-Live mashup; there has already been some user confusion between MSN and Live. We are still at an early stage of this evolution. Neither company has a fully mature, corporate-ready application service provider solution on the scale of a Salesforce.com. For an enterprise customer dealing with a multi-vendor, multi-application environment, one size does not fit all with regards to SaaS "in the cloud." What hasn't been addressed very well is the uptime and SLA's that corporate customers need. Just look at some recent outages from "the cloud." We have RIM Blackberry (3 hours, second one this year), Salesforce.com (7 hours in February, no one's immune), MS Hotmail/MS Live (6 hours) and let's not forget the BGP injection that brought YouTube down for 2 hours. If I'm an SMB or an enterprise customer relying on these services for anything mission critical, I've introduced another layer of risk to my business. Are outages going to be the norm? Do you really want to put everything in the cloud?

About Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez Paul Lopez is a 20+ year technology veteran whose career has spanned multiple disciplines such as product management, software development, engineering, marketing, business development and operations... read more

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