Leader: Of tipping points and SaaS

When will the latter reach the former?
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

When will the latter reach the former?

This past week saw a lot of people talking about on-demand software as a service (SaaS). First off there was Salesforce.com - with a very obvious vested interest - banging the drum for all to hear at its Dreamforce conference.

No surprises there, Marc Benioff thinks it's great, in much the same way the Pope reckons Catholicism is not too bad and grizzly bears do their business in heavily wooded areas.

More notable perhaps was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer giving SaaS some 'Steve time' and a big thumbs-up this week. To date, Microsoft has been slow to embrace software as a service - ignoring it completely in the earliest days. Now Ballmer has said SaaS represents "a transition from software as we have known it to forms in which it will be even better". Of course what's changed in the intervening years (such is Microsoft's development timescale) is that Redmond's own Live offering has finally taken shape.

Microsoft would still rather talk about "click to run", whatever that means, rather than SaaS, and there still seems to be some mention of servers being sited in-house but it's a step in the direction many others are convinced the industry is moving.

The failure to disavow the on-premise offering may be an attempt to keep resellers happy at this stage. There are a lot of partners out there who will be losing sleep about any suggestion Microsoft might stop shipping CDs any time in the future.

And for another company we never thought we'd see embracing SaaS we have to go back to that Salesforce.com conference. The platinum sponsor was Accenture - a positioning which certainly stopped us in our tracks, albeit briefly.

We can't work out who is repositioning themselves here more - Salesforce.com or Accenture. For years Benioff has championed the fact you could fire up your browser, log in and you're a Salesforce.com customer, ready to go. And now we're hearing you may need the services of Accenture?

Conversely, how far from its roots will Accenture have to shift to make money in this brave new world? Its business model was a lot more set in stone when enterprises required people to come in and make sense of dozens of applications and servers.

With the on-demand vendors all offering to remove much of the client-server, integration headache Accenture seemed a strange choice as top sponsor. But Bob Suh, MD at Accenture, said his company is investing $450m in SaaS and service-oriented architecture and he gave a strong endorsement of the benefits SaaS can offer to enterprises.

It seems for all the consistent huff and puff of Benioff and co, it will be moments such as these - when names not previously associated with the movement change tack - which will characterise the moment when the SaaS tipping point has been reached.

Editorial standards