One of the great joys I have in working for Forrester is the opportunity to collaborate with my colleague Oliver Young on the future of Web 2.0. Oliver and I bring very different perspectives to the table and the final product is better as a result. Part of the reason for our difference in perspective is generational. I am a baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964). Oliver is what Forrester calls a millennial (born between 1980 and 2000). Oddly enough we share a passion for Converse All-Stars. Mine was the result of seeing them worn by the late great Wilt Chamberlain. Oliver, no doubt, was influenced by some highly pierced and tattooed musician.
Imagine two gigantic mountains of money. On top of each sits a warrior that wants nothing more than to be sitting on a pile of money twice the size. One warrior, we'll call him Google, dominates the world of on-line search and advertising. The other, we'll call him Microsoft, dominates productivity software.What's the fastest way to double the size of your mountain? Simple, take the other guy's pile.
Google entered the world of enterprise productivity software earlier this year. While they continually claim that they don't compete with Microsoft and that their goal is to bring collaboration and productivity to currently under-served workers,it's hard to imagine that they aren't eyeing that big pile of money that Microsoft is sitting on. Afterall, all those free lunches in Google's cafeterias aren't really free. Google wants you to give up that software and information on your laptop and access it all from their data centers.
Google spokespeople continually repeat the mantra, "We understand the enterprise". While I believe that to be true, I also think that Google has a lot to prove before being taken seriously as an enterprise software vendor. If they really intend to try to get at Microsoft's pile of money, they are going to have to demonstrate that they understand security, privacy and reliability and all in the emerging software as a services (SaaS) model. They also have to prove that they have the stomach to take on Microsoft for the long haul. Let's be clear here, Microsoft is not fond of anyone putting their hands on their pile of money.
I attended a conference sponsored by Carnegie Mellon West; The Fisher IT Center at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley; the Software Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University; and Services: Science, Management, and Engineering Program at UC Berkeley. The one-day event was held at the Microsoft Campus at Moffitt Field in Silicon Valley. The goal of this conference was to discuss where the software industry is going. Ten sessions including individual speakers and panels from university and business communicated the strong message that software is at a crossroads and will dramatically change in the future, and . . . the change has already begun. To access slides of the speaker presentations go to http://west.cmu.edu/sofcon/postcon.
The changes are around growth of software-as-a-service, new roles of services as a value- add to commoditized software, and new businesses and pricing models. The overwhelming consensus was that software-as-a-service is where the growth is today. Speakers pointed out some of the most successful companies in terms of generating revenue like WebEx, Amazon, Google — all service-based. At the same time they do not see companies that have built their business around software like Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft going “down-the-tube” just yet. In fact Oracle already has Oracle On-demand, a very successful service solution while supporting their enterprise installed customers. Companies that have these installed applications will not find it easy to change to a service-model, even it they wanted to. It requires architectural, economic and cultural changes and requires a ten-year time table to move from an installed software model to a services model. It seems much easier to start from the ground up like Salesforce.com.