My advice to Steve Ballmer on SaaS


I kind of like the underdog, I think that is why I’ve been known to come across as pro-Microsoft.  I don’t think I am. I think I'm more interested in seeing some balance in the blogosphere and observing what might actually happen.

To that end, I think Microsoft have done a pretty average job (my editor tells me I’m not allowed to use the word crap) in the SaaS space to date. This is my thoughts on what I’d do to address that if I was in charge of Microsoft.

  • Drop software plus services (S+S) as a market term. I understand that you needed to give your channel a sense that they belong in the future. I agree it is arguable a better description of the future direction of SaaS and that into the medium term we’ll have hybrid cloud and on premises stuff. But what you don’t seem to be getting is that the continued use of this term isolates you. It creates confusion (and distrust) in the user community. It relegates you down the credibility ladder and you miss out on the whole coolness factor that SaaS brings. Get rid of it for now.
  • Focus on corporates. Lets face it, MS is only ever going to be moderately cool so trying to keep current in consumer is going to be a slog. Mobile will be the exception here. Another reason? Because all wealth is generated by businesses. Full stop
  • For God's sake build office so it can be delivered SaaS, truly SaaS.
  • Create a whole new division or company to build this web Office variant. This will get around the politics and revenue substitution paralysis. Do it fast too. Your channel are doing it as best they can by themselves, support them in supporting you.
  • Pick your chosen delivery method for SaaS. Partner or go direct, doing both is a recipe for disaster. You will either blow your marketing budget or alienate your channel. While you are at it, pick which part of the platform as a service play you want to be in. Is it a software platform? True PaaS or a hosting platform? My read on the economics of globalisation is that the localisation required to get around language and local data security laws means you should stick to software stacks. To that end I’d pick the Telcos as the local hosters of choice. I’d also start looking for training partners and integrators. Not even you guys can do it all, where is your ecosystem play? How are you going to make the most of the plethora of application developers who want to make the most of your distribution?
  • Get your pricing right, what you think has value (Outlook!!) now has a market price of $0. Get over yourselves and start thinking about the market and how you can make the most out of other applications and services. Be quick, time is short.
  • Capitalise on the fact that the only part of Google’s stack that never goes down is advertising. Their application play is a support disaster, they have no idea how to ‘be’ a software company. Get stuck in while you can
  • Sort out your version control and interoperability. One of the reasons schools are turning to Google is that they don’t have interoperability issues. No Mac vs MS debacle. Just make it easy for everyone to use your software.

Simple. Anyone else got any advice before I lick the stamp on this?

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