Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Microsoft Pushes Towards Software as a Service: Are Content Vendors Ready to Follow?

So many of the hopes of major publishers and aggregators in the B2B space have been hinged on the predicate of owning the workflow of their users in one way or another via desktop applications. But what happens when the desktop disappears into the browser? It's a question worth asking in light of the Microsoft announcement of Windows Live. While largely a rehash of existing capabilities, it's a market positioning which sends clear signals that Microsoft intends to makes a splash in the Software as a Service (SaaS) space that will keep up with its competition. Performance concerns will dictate the necessity of desktop software for many years to come in specialized applications, but content vendors need to recognize that the SaaS movement is here to stay and is shifting software providers into a much more direct competitive stance with their own solutions.

In the SaaS environment online solutions such as already are beginning to become a dominant factor for servicing sales and marketing professionals, locking up desktops with a click of the browser and nary an I.T. person in sight - with premium content offered as add-on services. Microsoft is sure to bring its existing premium content relationships into the SaaS environment, but it's up to those content vendors to decide whether to hang their hat on Microsoft platforms in a browser-centric content marketplace. Content vendors need to be ready to play nice with Microsoft in the SaaS environment but be prepared to develop Web services that can play in any number of SaaS applications and services easily and flexibly - and hopefully begin to develop more effective SaaS presences of their own. After all, electronic content's been packaged as a service all along. Web services that can provide content and functionality in any number of user-defined workflows and contexts are the future for many publishers and aggregators, with this latest signal from Microsoft bringing the future that much closer.
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