If there’s one company that can indeed build and facilitate an ecosystem of services online it’s Microsoft. Many companies have already proven the model works. Many companies have a handful of customers (100,000 is a handful) in the overall marketplace of of software as a service. However, in order to scale to millions of customers and provide support – not many companies can do this.
Microsoft is moving much slower in fully implementing a software as a service (SaaS) platform than it moved to launch its Internet effort some 10 years ago, when the Netscape wars were being fought.
However, it’s continuing its evolution into this new world of SaaS.
Cnet writes Echoing comments Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie made in an interview with CNET News.com earlier this year, he said Microsoft is preparing a multi-layered platform designed to build and run Web-based services or on-premise software coupled with services.
This platform will be made available to all its customers, including business partners, consumers, business customers and software developers. It is part of the wider industry shift from software to software plus services, he said.
Why is this important for your small business?
For those of you who have not embraced SaaS because you don’t see it as a viable option or mature option for your business – you might start to more seriously consider it if it comes as a package from Microsoft.
It’s important that you carefully watch the SaaS evolution and are prepared for how it will affect your business. Already, in Microsoft Office, for example, many of the help and add-ons are available only via the Internet.
Right now Microsoft’s strategy is to offer a core of software with added value through online services. At some point this strategy will be to offer more core software as a service. I see a time when Microsoft Office, will be completely available online, in a dynamic blend of email, collaboration and other services, all offered from Microsoft.
Of course Google is playing a big role here. Not necessarily because of the technology, but because their Google and when they sneeze the industry is affected – in some way.
Kevin Gough, Senior Product Manager for Google Apps explained to me that there’s two customer types for Google’s applications. For those companies who find buying Microsoft products a financial challenge (or for some other reason – maybe technical) Google apps is clearly a competing product. For those companies who already have a Microsoft centric environment Google is an added-value.
An excellent example of this, Kevin shared, are nurses in a hospital who use Google apps to keep track of which patients are in each room. I’m sure they could use complex and custom designed medical software…but they choose to use Google apps. It’s simple to setup and free or quite economical.
Google recently launched Google gears which enables its applications to be used online or offline with not Internet access. Kevin said that that there is specific time for Google to enable “offline” access to Google apps. At this time Google is pleased to release the programming tool set for Google gears and enable developers to “offline” enable their own applications.
I also asked Kevin about Google apps becoming bloated and offering too many applications. He said that Google will concentrate three core areas: content creation, collaboration and publishing. With 1,000 businesses a day signing on to Google Apps – Google must be doing something right.
Keep your eye on Microsoft, Google and the dozens of other great companies helping us run our businesses better!
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