Monday, April 24, 2006

Software as a service: The next big thing

Software as a service: The next big thing | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2006-03-20 | By Eric Knorr: "In a now legendary 1995 memo, Bill Gates raised the alarm that Microsoft (Profile, Products, Articles) was woefully unprepared for what he termed the “Internet Tidal Wave.” Fast forward 10 years to last October, and Gates blasts out another high-priority e-mail, this time warning of a coming “services wave” of applications available instantly over the Internet. “The next sea change is upon us,” he writes."

Ever notice how Bill Gates is always one step behind? This isn't a surprise, though. One of the interesting things about the development of technology1 is that companies which successfully start out leading/anticipating/defining the market will, as time continues, grow to such a state that they will be followers at best or left in the dust at worst. Only organizations with a monopoly on their market will be able to keep pace. For a while, at least. Eventually they either have to accept their roll as facilitators ranter than leaders or they die. The most prominent case-in-point is IBM but a strong example can be seen with Intel and how AMD has changed it.

But there's a relatively new force in the tech world that is showing itself to be unaffected by this phenomenon; FLOSS. Some might say that the free/open source revolution is still to young to make this observation. But in actuality, at almost 15 years of age, it is nearly three times as long as Microsoft's window of driving leadership. In fact, Microsoft has spent more time holding back the evolution of software (and hardware, for that matter) than it has of helping it evolve.

Now we are in the beginning of the SaaS wave ($DEITY how I hate technology acronyms). Bill Gates and Microsoft are jumping on just like they did with the Internet. So where are they in the Information Superhighway? They are a side road. And an unpaved dirt one at that. They tried to use their monopoly on the desktop to make MSIE the defacto standard for browser innovation. This backfired quite badly. Now if they add some new feature to it which "embraces and extends" the Standard they are seen as having a broken browser2. And browser conformity to the standards is how SaaS is going to grow. Once the infrastructure is in place and the application service technology is stable you will find more and more larger businesses employing pieces of SaaS in their business process. The main form will be internally built and run services, though. A large company like, for example, WallMart isn't going to pay money to or Employease for their services. They will build their own service. And do you know what is going to be the one enabling technology that will allow them to do this? Yep, you guessed it. FLOSS.

1 This isn't limited to the tech world. Strange case-in-point is Dennis DeYoung's tenure in Styx.

2MSIE still has many things that are quite broken but the funny thing is that the next version isn't going to fix most of these errors.


  1. I may have to play devil's advocate on the MSIE issues. The back-end security holes and annoying security "features" may not be fixed in IE7, but the thing that's driving a good chunk of the exodus away from IE is in the process of being fixed: contemporary web standard support.

    I've used IE7 at work. It has to be the ugliest, least user-friendly web browser around, worse than Konqueror, Opera, and iCab. However, it renders standards-compliant web pages well. Basically, it can do most of what browsers like Firefox and Safari can do.

    The fact that IE still has around 90% of the browser market tells me that IE7 is going to hurt Firefox. This is unfortunate because Firefox (on platforms other than Macs. Grrrr...) is a better browser.

    So, from a technical/security standpoint I think IE will continue to suck. But from a user standpoint, IE is probably good enough to make a comeback. I don't want to see it happen, but I can't deny that it's in the cards.

    (Besides, Microsoft has held a dominant position in many areas of Internet technology--email and web in particular--in spite of joining the party around a decade late. Someone needs to get off their lazy ass in FOSS world and start marketing to non-geeks, quick. FOSS world is still mostly techs talking to techs. I seriously hear almost nothing about FOSS anymore, and I'm not turning a blind eye on the industry. I think Firefox is the only FOSS subject that that gets mainstream press. That's sad.)

  2. Yes, I had heard that IE7 has made great strides in becoming standards compliant. And as for your comment on the state of affairs in the FLOSS world... I'm with you 100% there, Bubba. ;-)