Harry Debes hasn't changed his mind about software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Last year, Debes, CEO of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software maker, Lawson, told ZDNet Asia he foresaw the SaaS market "collapsing" in two years, because the SaaS model is not able to deliver sufficient profitability for providers.
While he said he hasn't changed his opinion on that point, Debes was careful to separate the concept of SaaS from cloud computing, in a follow-up interview with us on Monday.
Debes said: "I haven't changed my mind on SaaS," and that his remarks last year referred to a utility model, where customers paid for software on a per-use basis. He described cloud computing on a broader infrastructure level: "I'm a big believer in cloud computing, and how [customers] can take advantage of [elastic] capacity to reduce cost."
SaaS, by contrast, is a "financing option", he said. Customers can use Lawson's software hosted by a third-party provider, and work out a utility financing arrangement with another party, "but we are not a financing company", he said.
"We choose to remain profitable."
Nonetheless, the company is working on opening up more of its applications to the cloud. Lawson offers several modules on a hosted basis, and plans to roll out more over the next 12 months. "Enabling applications [for the cloud] will make us more competitive," he said.
Debes also hinted at the possibility of Lawson partnering with a hosting provider. He said the rise of Internet giants such as Google and Amazon have challenged traditional hosting players such as IBM and EDS, but said the company was not prepared to announce any tie-up yet.
Strengthened vertical focus
While Lawson has been focusing on vertical markets for the past few years, it has strengthened this angle by reorganizing the company globally by vertical segments, said Debes.
The company recently announced a string of appointed directors overseeing vertical markets in different regions. It has also repackaged its software products into industry-specific offerings.
Debes said: "You can't apply all the same tools to each vertical, so we created bundles that address [each vertical's] unique requirements."
For customers in developing regions, this also helps connect the midsized US$100 million companies with best practices gleaned from Lawson's larger US$5 billion clients, he said.