S+S: Real or have I drunk too much Kool-Aid? :)

Readers of this blog must have seen that recently I have been spending quite some time discussing ‘software + services’. I know that Phil thinks S+S is bunkum but I have to disagree on that one. Of course, an S+S world would disproportionately benefit Microsoft as it is the only company with massive assets on both sides of the equation, but it is not why I believe in it. I believe in S+S because when done properly it is far superior to a ‘cloud-only’ SaaS model.

Here is a classic example:

I love Office 2007, the interface is clean, efficient and now very familiar. Far, far, far superior to any web based productivity tools I tested. The problem of course was collaboration and anywhere access. How do I share documents with others and/or how do I access my docs from anywhere. Now I use Office Live workspaces in conjunction to Office. The combination of the two is very appealing:

I use Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) locally to author a document, presentation or spreadsheet and Office Live workspace in the cloud to collaborate with others and as an anywhere access store. The integration is very smooth via the Office add-in. As shown in the image below:


(note that these type of solutions have been around for quite some time within the corporate boundaries of enterprises, and/or with Office Live; the big difference here is that it is now available ‘out there in the cloud’ for free (well ad-funded). Of course you need to have Office on your machine, but with Home and Student edition going for <$150 I find it a price worth paying for both the features and the local/offline aspect of it. (disclosure: as an employee I pay less than that for Office (for private use), but I would easily be willing to pay $150 was I not an employee)

I agree with Phil though that having the back end as a hosted solution is very good. No hassles in term of installation, data backup etc. but as far as user interaction is concern, I am a big believer in bringing it as close to the user as possible. Why would I ever want the cloud between me and my work? As I mentioned many times in this blog, the problem is not running client software (there is plenty of CPU, Memory and Disk at the edge), the problem is easy deployment. I would rather focus time on fixing the root cause (deployment) than working on the symptoms.

I have to confess that I miss 1 feature in Office / Office Live Workspace combo that I find very powerful in several web based productivity tools: the ability to have more than 1 person work on the same document  at the same time. I mitigate that with the usage of SharedView but in the few cases of "real time" collaboration, concurrent access to the document is better. But this is a missing feature not a fundamental flaw in the model.


So tell me, is this really an appealing hybrid model? Or have I drunk too much Kool-Aid? 🙂

Comments (2)

  1. jab says:

    There’s no denying that client software is still going to be with us for a pretty long time and there will be plenty of opportunities in the S+S sphere for years to come. But things are moving fast in many areas of software development. Everybody knows of the success to salesforce.com and Google’s applications. For instance, Google’s online rss reader is now so good that it is almost impossible to imagine client software doing the same.

    And ultimately Microsofts S+S strategy (I recently spoke to a Microsoft Director and he constantly corrected my reference to "SaaS" with a "S+S") could make Microsoft’s technology a less attractive platform for developing SaaS applications. Why?

    – Partnership models. Even if the company I work for is running a pretty big, MS technology based SaaS application with 6-700000 users we’re not even a MS partner. Since we’re not bundling MS software with every client installation we’re just not interesting in terms of revenues…

    – Lack of technology. It seems that everything that comes out of the high scalability community these days are related to "LAMP". Where’s the integraded grid technology to let us faster scale out our MS applications? distributed file systems? Technologies like MapReduce to do distributed computing of very large datacollections?

    – Cost. When you build large SaaS solutions the price of OS and server licenses suddenly becomes much more significant. (Just imagine the cost of setting up a SQL Server Enterprise installation on 200 CPUs…)