In a previous blog, I suggested that a new model of a ‘hybrid’ software company is emerging in which Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud computing vendors are offering downloadable appliances, or ‘applets,’ which permit users to utilize their web-based solutions off-line or behind the firewall.
My friends at Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) and other SaaS zeolots in the industry said I was crazy. But, many SaaS other vendors told me they were already offering an appliance option to their customers.
Some folks expected this functionality in 2007, when Google introduced Gears, its browser plug-in aimed at providing offline access to Web-hosted applications. In fact, Google has been offering an on-premise search appliance for a while.
I believe the Gmail announcement is another example of a growing array of offline enhancements being added to SaaS/cloud computing solutions that will become commonplace in the years to come.
SaaS and cloud computing purists might view this development as a bastardization of the on-demand service ideal. In my view, Google’s new option and other offerings like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Silverlight or Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) Air are simply the latest advancements in technology aimed at addressing real customer needs and preferences. In fact, Zoho unveiled its own offline email solution in October.
I think these offline capabilities will make SaaS/cloud computing more convenient for users, and will eliminate one more customer objection to adopting on-demand, web-based services which will help to accelerate the growth of the market.