Why 'SaaS-ified' Apps Fall Short - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/30/2007
11:28 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Why 'SaaS-ified' Apps Fall Short

We've talked about the "SaaS-ification" of existing applications before, and it's a prime activity for many software companies as they look to reinvent their conventional applications as SaaS offerings. Unfortunately, the results often leave users wanting more. In the move to the Web, you leave many of the nice, dynamic capabilities behind...

We've talked about the SaaS-ification of existing applications before, and it's a prime activity for many software companies as they look to reinvent their applications as SaaS offerings. Unfortunately, the results often leave users wanting more. In moving to the Web, you have to leave many of the nice, dynamic capabilities behind, and thus have a "brower-based, unsatisfying, on-demand version of a desktop application," as blogger Dave Rosenberg describes it (though he applies a more off-color term than "SaaS-ification").

We've seen these types of applications before, with the online version of Microsoft Office being the best example. In essence, someone takes an existing enterprise application, recreates it as a Web-delivered app, and in doing so, dummies it down and reduced its features. Typically, these apps are less attractive and harder to use.What seems to be separating the pure-play vendors, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite, from those who are reinventing themselves as SaaS is the quality of the applications. When you compare the native version of the app to the Web-delivered version, the latter always seems wanting. Vendors that cater just to SaaS and have focused on a Web-delivered application always seem to provide a much better user experience. If they did not, they would not have subscribers and, thus, no business. They don't have conventional software businesses to fall back on.

So, how you can you avoid bad SaaS-ified apps? It's really a matter of coming to the conclusion that vendors can create Web-delivered applications that are just as good, or better, than their native counterparts. This is possible through the use of existing and emerging RIA (Rich Internet Application) technologies including AJAX. However, it takes a commitment to the new platform, the Web, and a commitment that it is the future direction of their business. Many vendors want to straddle both sides of the fence, maintaining a common code base, but these are the vendors that never do SaaS well.

The bar is being set higher every day in terms of what users expect from Web-delivered applications - perhaps as high or higher than conventional applications. After all, you can now deliver the SaaS application in the context of the resources of the Web (e.g., linking Google Maps to an address). Indeed, I predict that within a few years, native applications won't have the same power of Web-delivered applications, considering the integration of Web-based resources and services. When you consider the mashup revolution that's going on today, this is clearly the winning direction.

David S. Linthicum is a managing partner with Zapthink, a consulting and advisory organization dedicated to SOA planning, implementation, training, mentoring and strategy. He is a well-known application integration and SOA expert who has authored 10 books on related topics. Write him at [email protected]We've talked about the "SaaS-ification" of existing applications before, and it's a prime activity for many software companies as they look to reinvent their conventional applications as SaaS offerings. Unfortunately, the results often leave users wanting more. In the move to the Web, you leave many of the nice, dynamic capabilities behind...

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