• Microsoft Office 2010 – A Commemorative Post


    So today is launch day, the day that Microsoft Office 2010 is released out and the world gets to see what a Microsoft take on a Software plus Services fuelled office productivity suite looks like. The world has already been inundated with reflections on the product itself so it seemed a good time to hold a mirror up and look at what ther vendors, potentially impacted by the launch, are feeling right now.

    microsoftgoogle First up Google, who have (at least to a certain extent) had the majority of the attention in this space to date. Google’s approach is, somewhat interestingly, that organizations should mix and match MS and Google products, as SeattlePI reported:

    Maybe businesses will opt to buy a handful of Office 2010 upgrade licenses instead of an entire office’s worth, said Chris Vander Mey, a senior product manager at Google’s Seattle location in Fremont. For the rest of the office, those workers who don’t need all the features inside Office, why not skip Microsoft’s complicated Enterprise Agreements and instead add Google Docs to their current Office 2007 or Office 2003 environments?

    Which is very much in line with their “more of what you need, and less of what you don’t” approach. As CEO Eric Schmidt said:

    What we’re doing is adding appropriate functions to Google Docs from the bottom, we’re adding the common cases. We’re not trying to build a full copy of Microsoft Office. I don’t think that’s good use of our time. What will happen is a corporation will end up having both around for awhile.


    Zoho (exclusive sponsors of CloudAve) elegantly
    refers to Google

    In case you are considering upgrading to Office 2010, you might want to give
    online alternatives a try. Our friends at Google listed several reasons
    not to upgrade to Office 2010

    Then rather than discussing Microsoft Office, they turn their attention to
    their vision of future office apps:

    We see a new phase in the evolution of Office suites – Componentization …
    The next step: Office apps becoming components within other apps…. Office suites
    traditionally have been standalone applications that are independent from other
    business applications. While there is clearly value in this, we think their
    usage and their impact on user’s productivity will be significantly higher when
    they are contextually integrated within other business applications and

    They cite integration within their own numerous applications, as well as
    with Central Desktop – coming up next here.

    CDlogo Next I spoke to CEO of CentralDesktop, Isaac Garcia for his take on what this all means. Remember that, as I covered last week, CentralDesktop have just rolled out an offering that essentially given Microsoft Office 2010 functionality to 2003 and 2007 users. Garcia stated that:

    We think that it is presumptuous for Microsoft to expect SMBs to upgrade all of their Office licenses in a down economy, We believe they will look for lower cost alternatives and CentralDesktop’s SaaS offering simplifies the process without a hidden agenda

    Which is all probably justified but perhaps a little tainted. However Garcia raised some really good points about just how easy it’s going to be for Microsoft Office users to get all that exciting collaborative-y functionality:

    Microsoft is selling the entire stack (SharePoint, SQLserver etc) , not just an Office upgrade. There are other hidden costs in addition to upgrading to office 2010. In order to access all of the “social and collaborative features” users need to either upgrade to sharepoint or use one of their other web services.

    box_logo CEO of box.net Aaron Levie came through with some incredibly strong quotes that really show why he, and box.net as a vendor, are garnering so much attention.

    On Microsoft’s Cloud Strategy Levie was less dismissive than one would have expected:

    Beginning with the launch of Office 2010, Microsoft will demonstrate whether or not it is truly “betting the company on cloud computing.” This is Microsoft’s opportunity to transform itself into a more innovative, open and user-focused company, but it faces some significant hurdles: it will need to design software specifically for the web, and not just retrofit old single-tenant software. It will need to meaningfully engage developers with an open platform – developers that are wary after failed projects like the Live Mesh Developer program. It will need to embrace a new business model that will often force it to compete directly against its massive ecosystem of partners, consultants and resellers, and it will need to address confusion in the market around its many overlapping product lines (Office Online, Live Folders, SkyDrive, Docs.com, etc.), and tell a coherent story to users and developers about its vision for the cloud.

    Even when asked to comment about SharePoint 2010 – the very product that box.net has ridiculed previously in countless marketing campaigns – Levie is moderate in his criticism:

    SharePoint 2010 will no doubt be a major improvement over its predecessor, but the key thing to watch is usability. Microsoft has thrown a bunch of social features onto its SharePoint platform, and we’ll see whether these translate into increased productivity and enhanced collaboration, or if they’re more in line with a kitchen sink, ad hoc approach. We get a lot of frustrated SharePoint users who come to Box because they need to share and collaborate with parties outside their organization – something that will continue to be a fundamental issue with SharePoint 2010.

    logo_largeFinally I quizzed CEO of SlideRocket, Chuck Dietrich. With a history that includes a stint at salesforce, along with his current position heading an organization that’s squarely competing with PowerPoint, I was interested to hear his perspective. I wasn’t let down.

    Microsoft’s revenue is dependent on selling old-school packaged software, continual upgrades and hardware. Ever since Salesforce.com started the SaaS revolution, Microsoft has been under pressure to address the software as a service or ‘cloud’ model. But the truth is, Microsoft cannot embrace the cloud, because a subscription-based software delivery model would cannibalize their short term revenues. Office 2010 is another attempt to sell upgrades and hardware, not an innovative web based application.  Thankfully, there are an array of cloud applications now available that, for the first time in decades, threaten the dominance of Microsoft Office  — from what Google has done for email and documents, to what SlideRocket is doing for presentations and dozens of others. With so many inexpensive, robust cloud apps to choose from, companies don’t need packaged software suites like Office anymore. Now they get choice and innovation.

    Ouch – that’s fighting talk. of course it needs to be tempered with the knowledge that a significant proportion of earth’s population use Microsoft office, and even if only a fraction of those users pay for the product, that’s more people than have ever heard of all the services I’ve talked to in this post put together. Having said that however, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a sea change in terms of how people work, the vendors I’ve talked to may be (to a greater or lesser extent) mere fledglings, but they’re fledglings who are moving fast, if the incumbents don’t watch out, they might just get eaten by those nipping at their heels.


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  • Media Relations is an Ongoing Process. Sage Seems to Forget That.


    A year ago I wrote a post congratulating Sage on an increase in communications they’d had with me. As I said at the time: So I give Sage significant kudos for reaching out and contacting some of us, but…

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  • Gone Google or Google Gone?

    Google launched their Google Apps campaign called Gone Google with so much fanfare. Now there seems to be some backlash against their offering. There were some rumors that Yale is delaying the switch to Google Apps due to security concerns and a Techcrunch post about concerns raised by City of Los Angeles bureaucrats about Google Apps deployment. Today Information Week has an exclusive article about University of California-Davis decision to end Google Pilot citing privacy and security fears.
    Many faculty “expressed concerns that our campus’s commitment to protecting the privacy of their communications is not demonstrated by Google and that the appropriate safeguards are neither in place at this time nor planned for in the near future,” the letter said

    Along with concerns about storing their data on third party providers, UC-Davis officials also pointed to University of California Electronic Communications Policy.

    This is interesting from two fronts. One is about Google’s effectiveness in luring customers to their online Office Suite offerings and the second is about the very idea of convincing users to put their data on third party servers. This clearly highlights the work cut out for us, the cloud computing evangelists and the vendors. On one side, it is important for the vendors to go all out to ensure the highest security levels possible in their offerings and, on the other side, evangelists like us should take it upon ourselves to convince people about cloud based services. We need to do a better job of educating users about how it is not all that bad in the cloud world and some regulations may even need a overhaul to keep up with the advances in technology.
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  • Tech Stocks, Some Interesting Trends


    So Greece is imploding, the flow on effects to the greater Eurozone (and even farther afield) are unknown. Wall Street is down and it’s fun to look at how tech stocks are doing…

    msft .

    Microsoft, down 2.37% on heavy trading.


    One million iPads and Apple is still down, even so more than Microsoft.


    What’s going on here – Google the wunderkind down close to 5% on double average volumes?

    So what about the new bastion of tech stocks – the listed SaaS vendors. One down, two up on my highly unscientific sample. Standout performer seems to be NetSuite (see disclosure), up 4% on a day when the market is tanking. So why?



    Well yesterday saw NetSuite’s earnings call which saw some pretty stellar results given the difficult times:

    Total revenue for the first quarter of 2010 was $43.9 million. Revenue from the Americas for the first quarter of 2010 was $35.5 million, while revenue from international regions was $8.4 million.

    GAAP operating loss for the first quarter of 2010 was $6.6 million, compared to a GAAP operating loss of $4.0 million in the first quarter of 2009. On a GAAP basis, net loss for the first quarter of 2010 was $7.1 million, or $(0.11) per share, compared to a net loss of $3.7 million, or $(0.06) per share in the first quarter of 2009.

    Non-GAAP operating income for the first quarter of 2010 improved 81% year-over-year, growing to $1.4 million, compared to a non-GAAP operating income of $790,000 in the first quarter of 2009. Non-GAAP net income for the first quarter of 2010 was $930,000, or $0.01 per share, as compared to a non-GAAP net income of $1.0 million, or $0.02 per share, for the first quarter of 2009.

    Calculated bookings for the quarter reached $47 million, representing the highest total for a quarter in the company’s history and growing 27% year-over-year and 2.5% sequentially. The year-over-year growth represents the fastest calculated bookings growth in more than a year. This sequential growth represents the first time in the company’s history as a public company that calculated bookings have grown Q1 over Q4. Calculated bookings are defined as the change in total deferred revenue plus revenue.

    And on the back of these impressive numbers, CEO Zach Nelson took aim at some of the big boys, coming out fighting at both Microsoft and SAP and decrying their lethargy, apparent inability to innovate. It’s an interesting approach, and one that a company like NetSuite can only leverage for a short period of time – they’re getting bigger and with that comes a degree of slowness, there will soon come a point in time when they have to have a much more “high brow” discussion with the market about themselves and their competitors. For now though, sit back and enjoy the punches Zach throws around:

    Microsoft announced a bizarre offering to wind the clock back 15 years

    The current score is NetSuite 6,600, SAP 100

    We’ll await the next chapter with anticipation!

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  • It’s All About Support – Granular Is Good


    The other day I had one of those nightmare situations that only those who are similarly detail-focused (some would say retentive) as myself can appreciate.

    Now I’m a stickler for detail – it really offends my sensibilities when things aren’t stacked in order, when things don’t match and, most of all, when the numbers in my accounting system don’t add up.

    This post is a reaction to something I experienced with Xero, but could equally apply to anyone with an application that has to support the bane of all of our existences – end users.

    Most of my consulting work is in international currencies and, as such, I find it easier to use PayPal to wrangle the vagaries of a handful of currencies, forex fluctuations and complex fund movements. Luckily for me Xero has an integration with PayPal which automates most of what I do.

    Recently the PayPal integration went down – for some reason I was getting strange error messages in the PayPal bank account section of Xero. I flicked out a Twitter message to Xero asking what was up:


    Seemingly a natural enough question – what was wrong, how long would it be broken for and can you tell those affected once it was fixed. Xero is great at replying on Twitter (the OG stands for OrangeGirl, Xero’s community manager and the nicest person you’re likely to find in tech) and I got this back:


    Excellent – timely, honest advice and an indication of the intended course of action. Except of course that of the 15000 or so Xero customers, I’d wager that only a very very small percentage use the PayPal integration. I ruminated a little on that and, being one who likes to communicate my thoughts, flicked the ever-suffering Orange Girl another Tweet:


    To which (did I mention she’s long-suffering) Oragne Girl decently replied:


    The most that Xero was able to do was to send a mass-Tweet to all followers:


    Xero reacted perfectly to the situation and, after-all, it wasn’t anything critical. but the problem is that it’s inefficient and sub-optimal to send status updates to everyone that only affect a small proportion of users/followers. What we need is fine grained control over customer support – the ability to target status updates based on particular (and flexible) criteria…

    It’s an opportunity just waiting to be fulfilled – a third party application that mines an application database to provide vendors with the ability to fine tune customer communications…. There’s the idea, now over to a keen engineer to seize the opportunity and build something!

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  • Red Hat Takes Another Step Towards Cloud Computing

    Picture Source: ArstechnicaRedhat, the poster child of open source and maker of most popular Linux distribution in the enterprise market, took another step into the cloudy future. Redhat recently released version 5.5 of their popular Enterprise Linux distribution. They followed it up with an announcement focused mainly on the hybrid nature of the enterprise cloud adoption in the immediate future.
    According to the announcement, Redhat announced what they call as Red Hat Cloud Access which allows their enterprise customers to use their existing subscriptions on Amazon Web Services, EC2 to be more specific. With this, Amazon Web Services becomes first Red Hat Premier Certified Cloud Provider. With Red Hat Cloud Access, eligible Redhat customers can move their Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions between traditional on-premise servers and Amazon Web Services. With this feature, customers can select appropriate computing resources for their needs, without the need for new business or support models. It is important to note that not all customers can move their licenses to AWS but those enterprise customers with at least 25 subscriptions are the only ones allowed to move back and forth. Check their website for further eligibility requirements.
    Red Hat is also introducing new features designed to continue allowing enterprises to leverage the benefits of Amazon Web Services:
    • The latest versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be available on Amazon EC2 at the same time as the release for traditional on-premise deployments, in an effort to provide consistency between on and off-premise usage. This includes the features in the recently released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5.
    • Standardized, secure 32-bit and 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux images, which include cloud-specific content like creating images from a specific manifest and certificates, are secured using SELinux and firewall protections.
    • Continuous delivery of updates to Red Hat Enterprise Linux within Amazon Web Services, offering delivery of security errata and feature enhancements.
    Well, this is long expected from Redhat with Canonical making it damn simple for enterprises to use cloud computing. Unlike Redhat, Canonical doesn’t charge a subscription for their distribution and, rather, they charge for the support. Such a business model allows Canonical customers (well, there aren’t many like Redhat on the enterprise side) to easily tap into Amazon Web Services without worrying about the subscription terms. Plus, Canonical has taken a major leap into cloud computing by tightly integrating Eucalyptus into their Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud edition. The rave reviews about UEC has put enormous pressure on Redhat to do something as more and more enterprises are warming up to cloud computing, both public and private. This easing of subscription terms is an important step in ensuring that enterprises have the necessary flexibility to move from on-premise to cloud. There is a long way to go before Redhat becomes an important player in the cloud market. We will have to wait and see how it shapes up.
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  • Webinar – 10 Questions to Ask About Cloud Computing


    This week I’ve been invited to take part in a webinar with Dan Druker from Intacct, co-presenting a webinar looking at the important questions that prospective end users of cloud computing need to ask their vendors. It’s a webinar that leads on from a whitepaper we published (see disclosure) recently, and which has been having great uptake in the marketplace.

    It’s a paper that (from my perspective anyway) is important – it’s all to easy to think the rest of the world “gets” this stuff – the truth is somewhat different – cloud is still nascent and customers need help identifying the issues and, more importantly, developing their due diligence approach. It’s a truth that is borne out time and time again – I’m perpetually surprised by just how lacking we, as technology aficionados, are in the realization that we need to articulate this stuff at a level that the everyday person (or accountant even 😉 ) can understand.

    Anyway, it’s an event that earns CPA credits so I’m expecting there’ll be a bunch of numbers-focused questions coming up during the session. From the webinar mailer:

    Tens of thousands of companies like yours are saving money and improving productivity by adopting cloud computing — with an ROI of 75 to 500% per year vs. running legacy software applications. Are you ready?
    If you’re not sure about cloud computing, attend the webinar “Ten Questions to Ask About Cloud Computing” on Thursday, April 22nd and learn how the cloud can transform your financial systems and save tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Ben Kepes, Principal at Diversity Analysis will go through the key questions you should ask about:

    -Business requirements— Which of my business systems are best suited to move to cloud computing and where can I find the highest ROI?

    -Availability— What should I look for if I want to access information from my business at anytime, from anywhere I have an Internet connection?

    -Reliability and Security— Is cloud computing more or less reliable and secure than running my own software in-house?

    -Data Ownership— What happens if I discontinue my subscription to a cloud-based system?

    -Customization— How can I be sure that cloud-based applications can be customized to meet the exact needs of my business?

    Get an independent view of why tens of thousands of finance departments are flocking to cloud computing and learn the key questions to ask from the experts at Diversity Analysis. Register for the webinar now and when you attend you will also receive the companion white paper “Ten Questions to Ask Your Cloud Vendor.”

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  • Marketing Automation Made Easy With Suitecloud Platform

    Netsuite’s Suitecloud is in full swing now and our own Ben and Zoli are tracking it closely. Soon the videos of Suitecloud will be available on Netsuite’s Youtube channel. The flexible Suitecloud platform is already making waves and I came across an announcement about how Leadforce1‘s marketing automation platform is integrated with Netsuite’s cloud computing platform. Leadforce1’s Marketing Automation 2.0 platform is a collaborative suite that helps sales, marketing, website optimization teams to collaborate in real time to get better insights to convert visitors into leads and eventually into business. Essentially, their Marketing Automation 2.0 platform uses effective collaboration methodologies and analytics, provides holistic view of each prospect and enables sharing and up-sell opportunities within communities across an organization’s internal and external networks.
    NetSuite’s SuiteCloud (which I think Ben will cover more here at Cloud Ave) is a comprehensive offering of on-demand products, development tools and services designed to help customers and commercial software developers take advantage of the significant economic benefits of Cloud computing. Essentially, this platform brings all the advantages of cloud computing to the hands of their ecosystem developers. We can compare Suitecloud platform to Force.com from Salesforce. The complete SuiteCloud offering includes NetSuite’s multi-tenant, always-on SaaS infrastructure; the NetSuite Business Suite of applications (Accounting/ERP, CRM, Ecommerce); the NS-BOS Development Platform; the SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN), a comprehensive developer program for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs); and SuiteApp.com, a single-source online marketplace where customers can find applications to meet specific business process or industry-specific needs.
    With today’s announcement, Leadforce1’s marketing automation platform is integrated much deeply with Netsuite’s cloud computing platform by automating qualifying of sales leads by capturing Website visitor intent and interest, and adds an integrated call-back capability to give sales professionals live access to the most qualified prospects. Built using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud computing platform, the combined solution can help NetSuite customers increase lead-pipeline volume, reach decision-makers and close deals faster than manual methods. This platform helps marketing and sales teams of any organization using Netsuite platform collaborate more closely in real time leading to improved conversions. 
    The topic of discussion in the San Francisco Cloud Computing Club meeting held during Cloud Connect event was how cloud platforms are going to take over the world. Platforms like Netsuite’s Suitecloud and applications like Leadforce1’s marketing automation solutions are precursors to what we will be seeing in the future.
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  • Twitter Acquires Tweetie, What's Next?

    First one of Twitter’s investors, Fred Wilson, said this
    Much of the early work on the Twitter Platform has been filling holes in the Twitter product. It is the kind of work General Computer was doing in Cambridge in the early 80s. Some of the most popular third party services on Twitter are like that. Mobile clients come to mind. Photo sharing services come to mind. URL shorteners come to mind. Search comes to mind. Twitter really should have had all of that when it launched or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience.
    Immediately, Nicholas Carlson of Silicon Alley Insider wrote a post wondering if Mr. Wilson dropped a bombshell and predicted about the following possibilities
    Bit.ly (as a URL shortener), TwitPic (as a photo uploader) and Tweetie (as an iPhone app) are now considered ‘core’ to the platform. They will either be bought or competed with.
    • Given that Twitter announced their own URL shortener and will need one for any [cost-per-click advertising] business model, we should assume Twitter will have its own URL shortener concept.
    • TwitPic could be bought or built. Probably easier to build, since there’s no magic there.
    • Tweetie is a big favorite of the Twitter crew, they love Loren Brichter’s stripped down design and cool sensibility, and it can probably be bought at an affordable price. Ie., Bit.ly downgraded; TwitPic built, Tweetie bought.
    Now Twitter has announced that they have acquired Tweetie (my favorite app before Echofon replaced it due to lack of development on the Mac client side)
    We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve entered into an agreement with Atebits (aka Loren Brichter) to acquire Tweetie, a leading iPhone Twitter client. Tweetie will be renamed Twitter for iPhone and made free (currently $2.99) in the iTunes AppStore in the coming weeks. Loren will become a key member of our mobile team that is already having huge impact with device makers and service providers around the world. Loren’s work won the 2009 Apple Design Award and we will eventually launch Twitter for iPad with his help.
    So my question is
    What’s next?
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  • Google and Resellers? – How Happy is the Relationship?


    Recently Google announced a new tool that would allow users to migrate email, contacts and calendar data from on-premise and hosted Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps. The tool would specifically:

    • Perform a centrally managed bulk migration of users
    • Selectively migrate email, calendar or contacts (or any combination thereof)
    • Migrate in phases for very large migrations

    Sounds great huh? Self service, a degree of automation and easing the on-ramp for adoption. But I wonder…

    You see Google, the company that always prided itself on a direct to consumer channel strategy, has in recent months embarked on a strong reseller program – understanding that, at least when selling into larger enterprise, there is simply no avoiding customers preference for a local VAR, and near unanimous need for a services offering on top of the software itself.

    Resellers have been a little nervous, at least in part due to doubts about Google’s commitment to them as a channel – after all when you’re used to great revenue from implementing an on-premise solution, the more paltry sums involved in a cloud product look decidedly shabby. It struck me that already nervous resellers would be even more nervous with this move by Google, a move that – at least to a certain extent – would see Google eat their own reseller’s lunch.

    I put this to Scott McMullan, Google Apps lead within the Googleplex for his take on this. Unsurprisingly he dismissed my contention directly, saying that:

    This gives both customers and VARs a reliable (and free) tool to move bits from one system to another.  Our VARs want this — they sell services around the use of this tool.

    What better way to test my contention than to ask the resellers themselves. I spoke to Stuart Maxwell from Amanzi, a small IT shop, as well as Dave Livesey from Wave Adept (who specialize almost exclusively in Google apps implementations). I asked them:


    Their replies were interesting:




    Now a cynic would say that this is a case of self-interest with these particular VARs keen to publicly be seen to support Google – but knowing these two particular businesses personally, that’s almost definitely not the case. Looks like this is much more a case of Google providing a useful tool that its VARs can put to good use…

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