Anyone who follows the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market knows that every major SaaS player, starting with Salesforce.com (CRM), uses the success of consumer-oriented, on-line services as the model for its business-to-business solutions.
SaaS vendors, executives and ‘experts’ (myself included) point to the way these web-based services created an enjoyable, effective and economical user experience as the centerpiece of their success.
The most prominent example of this approach has been Apple iTunes.
Ironically, Apple (AAPL) has never taken advantage of its prominence and positioned itself as a SaaS or cloud-computing player. It appears that this may be changing. At this past week’s MacWorld, Apple unveiled a new, web-based version of its iWork productivity suite. Just as Microsoft’s (MSFT) Software-Plus-Services strategy is an acknowledgement of the growing interest and adoption of web-based apps, so is Apple’s move down the same path.
Apple is also moving in this direction to build on the momentum it has gained penetrating the corporate environment. At the desktop and laptop levels, Apple capitalized on customer discontentment with Microsoft’s move to Vista to win a greater share of the corporate PC market. The iPhone has also been a big hit among corporate customers.
So, Apple is in a far better position to succeed in its SaaS/cloud-computing initiative than Microsoft. Apple has the online procurement and delivery mechanisms to facilitate the new service, as well as the end-user devices (desktops, MacBooks and iPhones). It is known for its innovations, and will immediately attract a broad base of curious and committed fans to test the beta version of the new on-demand service.
Apple can also exploit the growing ‘consumerism’ within the corporate IT environment, which has seen end-users bring their personal systems and services into the workplace to get their jobs done. Apple can also leverage a vast assortment of developers, channel partners and strategic relationships to distribute and enhance its SaaS solutions. So, the ‘poster child’ for the SaaS movement appears to be making its move to claim a share of the rapidly growing SaaS/cloud-computing market.