Windows Vista Will Give SaaS Apps a Boost - InformationWeek
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2/9/2007
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David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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Windows Vista Will Give SaaS Apps a Boost

With the release of Windows Vista, I'm reminded of the release of Windows 95 more than ten years ago. The hype was huge, and many felt the world would change forever. It did not. OS vendors are finding it harder and harder to make new releases compelling, but it could be different for Windows Vista when considering software as a service.

With the release of Windows Vista, I'm reminded of the release of Windows 95 more than ten years ago. The hype was huge, I had a beta copy, and many felt the world would change forever… It did not.

At the end of the day, operating system upgrades have a diminishing effect over time. I mean, most users don't exploit features of an OS, or understand the advantages of upgrading; they're happy as long as they can get e-mail, surf the Web, drive a spreadsheet and write a letter. To this point, operating system vendors, such as Microsoft, are finding it harder and harder to make new releases compelling. Windows Vista, however, could be a bit different when considering software as a service (SaaS).Considered within the architecture of the Vista is the use of remote services and the blurring of lines between native applications installed on the OS and applications delivered over the Internet, particularly Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

So how will this help SaaS? For years, SaaS applications on the desktop have looked like much different types of applications than the more traditional ERP and CRM systems. Because of their reliance on established Internet standards, such as HTML and HTTP, and their delivery through browsers, SaaS apps did not behave the same as native applications -- something that conventional enterprise app vendors continue to exploit as SaaS gains share.

With Vista, the browser and its ability to use remote services is becoming more pervasive in the platform. If SaaS apps are built correctly with newer Web application approaches such as Ajax, it should be difficult to figure out where the native apps stop and the SaaS apps begin.

However, having the platform available does not mean that SaaS providers will take advantage. RIA technologies like Flex and Ajax have been out there for years, yet I've seen very little uptake on delivering richer native-like interfaces (although I'm sure the larger vendors have RIA upgrades in the works).

Even more compelling is Windows Vista's ability to support more of a SOA approach to application delivery. This will enable SaaS services to be better connected down to the clients providing data and behavior, thereby supporting a more dynamic interface. This is the core architecture of RIA approaches such as Ajax, and Vista could take to a level that makes the SaaS player much more transparent and, thus, much more compelling for the rank-and-file user.

Indeed, we could be heading toward a day when our operating systems are nothing but front ends for remote services, mixed and matched for whatever business purpose we require. This is clearly the direction of SaaS. The question is how long it will take to get there? I'm hoping it's before I need a new laptop, and thus will be forced to upgrade to Vista.

Application integration and service oriented architecture expert David Linthicum heads the product development, implementation and strategy consulting firm The Linthicum Group.With the release of Windows Vista, I'm reminded of the release of Windows 95 more than ten years ago. The hype was huge, and many felt the world would change forever. It did not. OS vendors are finding it harder and harder to make new releases compelling, but it could be different for Windows Vista when considering software as a service.

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