2006 could be the year
of the online software boom
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
January 10-16, 2006: High Tech Office
column; Issue #846
now, nearly all of the software that we've run, whether at home or in
the office, has existed in one of two locations: on your personal
computer's hard drive or on a server for a local area network. In both
cases, the key word is "local."
and more, expect to be running software over the Internet. This is made
possible by the convergence of several technologies, including
increasingly common broadband Internet access and a set of programming
make it easier to create, distribute and run online applications.
Online applications aren't entirely
for example, has offered Quickbase, a subscription online database for
several years. It also offers online tax return services.
Vancouver-based Functionpoint provides online project
management, while any number of companies, including locals Maestro
CMS, Hi-Performance Enterprises and sPearCat offer
businesses online tools to maintain websites.
has been busy pushing the envelope with a host of online applications
such as Google Earth. (Click on the "More" link above the Google search
field to enter a veritable candy store of online treats.) The formerly
Vancouver-based Flickr photo-sharing site (now owned by Yahoo)
is another AJAX-powered online application.
has been a leader in selling customer relations management (CRM)
software. Despite this, the company is predicting the end of the
traditional software model.
"In a short time, all technology will
be delivered via the on-demand service approach," company VP Phil
told a recent Toronto CRM conference. The company is moving its own
products to its online AppExchange system, which also allows potential
customers to browse over 70 applications from a variety of vendors.
Currently, according to ITWorld
Salesforce.com leads the on-demand market with some 17,000 customers
representing a subscriber base of over 300,000 users. Its success has
sparked interest from major software vendors. Oracle, for
example, has acquired Siebel and will soon begin offering that
company's CRM OnDemand service. SAP AG is planning an on-demand
CRM product in 2006, and Microsoft is now offering a monthly
subscription to its Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Salesforce.com duplicates its
service's data centres to ensure that customer data is not affected by
relation software isn't the only product area facing online
competition. Even traditional product categories such as office suite
software is becoming available as an online service. InetWord, from
Kirkland, Washington-based Forward Center (www.inetword.com)
aims to provide an online replacement for Microsoft Word, for example,
offering a Web-based environment to edit Web pages and word processor
documents using devices resembling the familiar Word toolbars and
keyboard shortcuts, in a surprisingly quick and responsive interface.
Currently, the product is only available for Windows Internet Explorer
users, though the company expects to make it compatible with Firefox in
Center is planning to license its service through Internet Service
Providers, who would offer it to their subscribers; free individual
demonstration accounts are available now.
Another browser-based word processor,
Upstartle LLC's Writely (www.writely.com)
is in beta testing and supports Windows and Mac users of Internet
Explorer, Firefox and Mozilla, with Opera and Apple Safari browser
support expected soon.
company currently permits free registration, allowing users to edit and
store documents in HTML, Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org formats,
sharing editing privileges with multiple users if desired. Multiple
users can safely edit a single document at the same time, making it a
potential collaboration tool.
in 2005, Microsoft promised a set of vaguely described "Windows Live"
and "Office Live" online services to complement (though not replace)
upcoming versions of those products (see http://ideas.live.com).
of online software as a service has been growing for several years. I
wouldn't be surprised if 2006 is the year when it becomes "the next new