Hosted software, delivered over the Internet, has, in recent times, become increasingly popular for certain business applications, such as customer relationship management. But with an increasing number of applications being offered in this way, have we reached the tipping point, where traditional models of software deployment will start to die out?
The latest entry into the growing software-as-a-service market, Google, may prove to be the most significant to date. It has made its most determined effort yet to extend its reach beyond its core search business with plans to release a set of business applications.
Google has created a software platform to run a basic set of web-based programs for email, calendars and communication. And while Google’s initial set of applications are aimed at small businesses, the likelihood is that its executives will want to drive into the bigger enterprise market.
But this news is more striking because of what is going on at other software makers, not least Microsoft. Unlike Microsoft’s productivity software, Google will not require software to be installed on every user’s desktop, potentially making it easier to deploy and update.
Indeed, the IT department may well have little say in what email programs users choose, if Google gets its way. “Increasingly, Google has been placing its products and services directly in front of end users, without the intercession of IT departments,” says analyst group Gartner in a research note.
Of course, Google is not the first company to adopt this model. Salesforce.com redefined the CRM market with its hosted software, and there are many others such as NetSuite. But where Google really differs is that it is offering the standard version of these applications for free.
That Google promises to deliver such workaday applications is evidence that any and all applications may soon be delivered over the Internet. The announcement by Google could herald the high-water mark for client-installed software.
The experts' response…
The cost and simplicity of hosted software makes it the obvious means of delivering software, says Steve Garnett, president for Salesforce.com in EMEA.
The traditional software model is dead. Having software installed on every machine, in every location, imposes huge constraints and huge costs on users. The change won’t happen overnight, but the tipping point is not very far away.
Businesses don’t want or need the complexity that comes with owning software: it’s expensive to deploy, manage, maintain, upgrade. And because our customers don’t own the software, it is easy for them switch if they’re not happy. That keeps us focused on delivering applications that they want.
Models of software delivery will change, says Mark Quirk, head of technology at Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, but no single model will win out.
This is all about the experience delivered to the end user and the best way of delivering on their needs. The thing customers appreciate most is the choice our platform offers them, instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Already software deployment is changing: dual models, where a client-installed application is enhanced by online functionality, are seen with media players like Windows Media Player. ClickOnce simplifies the deployment process for a client-based application, and allows a secure client installation that can be updated and maintained centrally.