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InfoQ Homepage News SaaS could get an unexpected boost from the iPhone

SaaS could get an unexpected boost from the iPhone

In this day and age where outsourcing remains the main line of innovation for IT organizations, SaaS is music to the hears of some CIOs. Nicolas Caar reports that “SAP CEO calls SaaS the better model”. Even though most vendors are still working on architectures that provide scalability, security, ease of customization, ease of integration and reporting …  business solutions, well beyond CRM,  will undoubtedly be converted to a SaaS model within the next 5 years. 

IBM has set the industry tone long ago focusing successfully on its “On Demand” strategy. Microsoft has already tried a couple of approaches: a pure SaaS model with the launch of the Live product line and more recently with realignment towards a “Software + Service” model. Microsoft’s position is tough: it needs to compete on all fronts: business solutions, wireless solutions and desktop applications such as Office, not to mention the service delivery platform itself. 

On the office front, the competition is fierce, yet the combination of OpenOffice and Google Apps has not yet significantly impacted the almost 500 million office user base. Phil Wainewright has even speculated recently that Google could buy to compete more effectively and develop synergies between the two product lines. Smaller players, mostly startups, have also developed nifty applications that aim at the office market. For instance, SmartSheet provides a very interesting spreadsheet based collaboration tool, while Zoho provides a full suite of office applications. Orb provides also an interesting capability to let you access your multimedia files (and live TV as well) from anywhere.

After the successful launch of the iPhone this week, one can ask if a combination of Apple’s innovative user interface, world class applications, ubiquitous Wi-Fi access and a dose of marketing genius would convince enough people to use a service to manage the storage, synchronization and backup of their favorite content (documents, media, data…). I sure gave up on keeping my 6 PCs at home synchronized or even backed up properly. My family use them mostly as “access points”. 

Zoho is certainly banking on this to happen, after releasing iZoho which provides iPhone-optimized access to Zoho’s online office applications. “Zoho anticipates that the iPhone – with its big screen, built in Wi-Fi, good usability, and full-fledged browser – will only improve the use of web applications on mobile devices.” Said Raju Vegesna, zoho evangelist.

Other companies will certainly follow. Apple has already made inroads in the sales force where some teams use iPods to podcasts sales information and training. There is only one step to think that very soon or CogHead will also provide access to their solutions through an iPhone-optimized interface. I wouldn’t go as far as speculating that Apple would buy, though it would be an interesting development. In the coming months, many companies will be watching how users respond to the iPhone user experience, if this response is overwhelmingly positive, we can expect tectonic displacements in the software industry as it will impact technologies such as SilverLight as well as content based revenue streams.

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