Does brand matter?

This might seem like a silly question, most marketers (which I am) will crawl over broken glass to tell you that its everything And to some extent it is. (Seth Godin’s post on Hunger is brilliant at describing JUST how powerful). But picture this. In a SaaS framework, especially where you are taking a utility service, does the brand REALLY matter?

I was reading the comments on Mary-Jo Foley’s post about sharepoint in the cloud and was struck by the intensity of the brand dislike coming through. Classic anti-Microsoft vitriol. But if I wanted I could find the same on Google, opensource products etc.

Given that any decision to move to a SaaS application should include the ability to extricate yourself and your data from that provider, does the brand thing even matter? Consider email as the example. Most would agree its a utility application, valuable but utility. If you get antsy with what you get from Google, move to Zoho. You get Antsy with Microsoft move to Zimbra. You get the picture.

In that world, does the brand actually mean anything? Do you know what brand of road you use? What about the tap water?  Does the provider’s brand mean the utility provided is any different from their competitors? What about if you bring your historical perceptions to the table in a SaaS world, does it make a difference? Really make a difference?  Why would you pay differing amounts? Would you fall for the marketing?

Microsoft SDK’s for their Live platform

With all the hoopla this week about Google's OpenSocial play (which is great!), i'm willing to bet that this announcement by Microsoft about them delivering a beta of the Live SDK went practically unnoticed. 

I agree with Mary when she says

 

It’s surprising to me how little Microsoft is doing to publicize the Windows Live APIs and tools that it is making available to developer .

 

I've written before about what a big move this is in my opinion. I think it would be a brave person to write off Microsoft in the SaaS space purely because  of their experience in building a strong developer community and using this to their advantage. Granted they have a lot more competition – Google, Force.com and Facebook.

As ex-pat Kiwi (couldn't resist) Troy notes , other large ISV's are struggling with the disruption that SaaS poses. In my dealings with them, MS is doing the same. Schizophrenic is the word that springs to mind. But their moves in the SaaS space are undeniable and given this move, i reiterate. MS will be a serious player in the SaaS space


 

Microsoft, Platforms, Opensource and SaaS

Ok, I'm playing the meta information game, apologies its kind of busy here at the moment.

Following on from my prediction about Microsoft opensourcing its code base and the implications on SaaS. I read with interest these two blogs.

The first, the war in the clouds, discusses how Force.com and Microsoft are going head to head on their platform plays. The second by Mary Jo Foley  goes into much more detail about opensource, platforms and the different plays. They are both in general agreement with my post. MS is doing what its always done, getting a bunch of software developers to use its code and build customer centric services onto the core code, and in this instance into the Live platform.

An interesting time ahead