Zoho Suite Gaining Muscle

If you follow the online productivity / collaboration market, you’ve probably noticed that Zoho, the company that earned their fame releasing new products at breakneck speed is slowing down. But are they, really?

I think they are just going through adolescence – you know, the stage when you can grow muscles fast. smile_wink They’ve been silently updating several of their products in the past months. Today’s Writer update includes support for pagination, headers, footers and spell checking in 43 (!) languages. Incidentally, some of these are the very features the Burton group listed as missing from Google Apps in their recent report titled “Google Apps in the Enterprise: A Promotion-Enhancing or Career-Limiting Move for Enterprise Architects?” The original report is 55 pages long, but here’s the InfoWorld summary:

Microsoft Office has a huge lead in features over Google Apps, the Burton Group says, giving these examples:

— Documents: “Google Docs does not support a table of contents, headers, footers, automatic creation of footnotes or end notes.” …

Although the Burton report focused specifically on GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition), it could be construed as criticism of the the web office market in general. Well, with today’s updates Zoho Writer meets all the Burton Group “requirements”. In fact, Zoho delivers most of what the Burton study considered missing features outside Documents, in the areas of spreadsheet(Sheet), presentation (Show), custom business applications (Zoho DB & Creator) , web conferencing (Zoho Meeting), and wikis (Zoho Wiki).

Several of the above services received updates in the past month – sometimes announced, other times silently appearing, without further ado. In fact that’s an obvious benefit of using web applications: the enhancements are simply available, without the need to apply annoying patches (I could go on listing failed client-side updates from Microsoft, Macromedia, Adobe.. you name it). Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu explained his views on updates vs. new products recently. He is obsessed about eventually delivering the “perfect” web applications that fully stand up to Microsoft Office, and recognizes the limitations these services have today.

Frankly, I think he is a perfectionistsmile_wink and perhaps would not even need to go all the way…after all, the point in web applications isn’t simply to replicate the offline experience. Moving applications to the web opens new dimensions, namely mobility and easy, native collaboration. Today’s Writer updates are important, because in our legacy world the challenger is measured against the standards of the incumbent. But Microsoft Office was created at a time when the purpose of document creation was to eventually print it. In the 90’s we thought we’d reach the dream of “paperless office” only to see paper-consumption grow dramatically. (Secretary prints email, faxes it to boss, who makes hand notations, faxes it back for secretary to type again…smile_angry). Today, in the age of better online collaboration (that you can NOT manage on paper) and ergonomic large screens, who prints anymore?

So while I recognize the importance of layout-oriented features (user acceptance), the real value to me is in real-time collaboration (co-editing), version control and restore, embedded chat, web-conferencing, linking, linking and linking – the things that make web documents live. On a side-note, this is why I am surprised that the latest Web Word Processor entrant, Buzzword, beautiful as it is, does not support entering URL’s and real-time co-editing: those omissions defeat the purpose of being on the web.

By the same logic I find’s Openbox a significant move: it allows to store one’s files online, while making it really easy to use a range of services, initially including Autodesk, Echosign, eFax, Myxer, Picnik, Scribd, Snipshot, Thinkfree, Twitter, Zazzle and Zoho on those files. There will be users who prefer the All-in-one concept, and they will likely settle on Google (bigger brand) or Zoho (more and better apps), but others will prefer picking their individual services, and for those Openbox is a good platform. Choice is good.

Related posts: Wired, CenterNetworks, Mashable, web 2.0 weblog, Zoho Blogs.

Update (10/17):  Google Docs added footnote support.


The World of Enterprise Software Will Change Tomorrow

I really would have liked to be at TechCrunch40, temporary HQ of all-things-Web. Instead, I’m in New York, where the world of Enterprise Software will change tomorrow. That’s when SAP will unveil A1S, the new generation SaaS solution for the SMB market. Incidentally, this may be the last time we hear A1S, as SAP is expected to reveal a new name.

I suspect after Wednesday there will be a lot of talk about the new system’s features, but for now, very few people have actually seen it, and they are all under rock-solid NDA. So for now, just a few preliminary thoughts.

SaaS and Enterprise Software

I am a big fan of Software as a Service, have repeatedly written about it, but mostly in the context of the small business or consumers space. My own passion comes from the time when I switched from “sell side” in the SAP business to actually being a customer in a small business (Sales VP, NOT IT type!) and was shocked at the sorry state of infrastructure and systems (more lack of) available to most SMB’s. I became convinced that for small businesses that don’t have IT staff at all, On-Demand solutions are the only way to go.

Does this mean SaaS is for small businesses only? Not at all. While it’s easy to declare that for small businesses without their own IT resources there is no better option than SaaS, there is no clear “winner” for large corporations. There shouldn’t be. SaaS is not a religion; adopting it should be a business decisions that these organizations have to make individually.

SAP and SaaS

On-demand “purists” (the religious types;)) have long criticized SAP for being laggards, taking a half-hearted hybrid approach to SaaS – but why would they do anything else? After all, SaaS is still only 10% of all enterprise software sold, although growing fast. Even if we believe “the future is SaaS” (which is of course unproven, but I happen to believe in it), there is a lot of mileage left in the “old” Enterprise model, and market leaders like SAP have certainly no reason to turn their backs to their huge and profitable customer base. Protection of the legacy market is largely the reason behind the segmentation, i.e. A1S being strictly a small- and midmarket solution – but I don’t believe this segmentation is cast in stone.

Anyone who saw one of Hasso Plattner’s numerous “new idea” presentations will have to realize he is talking about a lot more than just a new SMB product. Plattner “gets it” and if he does, so will SAP. Clearly, for now the product is slated for the SMB market – new product, new markets – but it also allows SAP to get their feet wet in SaaS, before fully plunging in.

This also explains what may appear as inconsistency at the low-end of the market (less than 50 employees) where SAP continues to offer Business One, their on-site solution. I fully agree with Dennis , for all the above reasons it’s exactly these businesses that would be better off with SaaS, so perhaps Busiess One should be replaced by A1S. But if SAP considers A1S as a test-bed, eyeing the Enterprise Market, they need a certain minimum organization size, and level of complexity. Complexity, after all, originates in the organization, not the software – but this brings us to the next point.

So why is it such a Big Deal?

Believers of the “SaaS Religion” should be happy when a behemoth like SAP throws in it’s weight – and the $400M it expects to spend on marketing A1S. But let’s dispel with a huge misunderstanding here. I literally go nuts when analists (even my fellow Enterprise Irregulars) mention SaaS players like, Netsuite, Succesfactors, Constant Contact on the same page, as one category. For the purpose of a specific analysis, like Charles did, it makes sense, but please, please, let’s remember, the so-called SaaS market is an artificial aggregation that eventually will make very little sense.

Companies do not buy software just for the sake of having it: they buy it to solve problems. They need inventory management, order and billing systems.. etc – not simply SaaS, just like in the past they could not care less if their software was delivered on tape, CD or DVD. Yes, I know I am simplifying to a great degree, but remember, It’s all about the functionality, not the delivery method.

So labeling the “market leader” is misleading – yes, they are the the largest pure-play SaaS player, but a relative point solution with a fraction of the functionality enterprises need – and the Appexcange / attempt to become a platform has not changed this picture.

There is no market leader in On-Demand, complete integrated solutions, because so far no company has offered anything comparable to SAP’s functionality. Granted, I have not seen the system yet, but when SAP puts three tousand developers to work for 3 years, you know you are getting something significant. (In comparison has less than 200 engineers.)

It’s all about Execution

The SaaS model allows for largely simplified business execution: marketing, awareness, “pull model”: instead off direct sales, the customer comes to the vendor, buying solutions on the Net. Consulting, Support all happens online. The reality of this pull-model is still debated, but I think waht’s often forgotten in the debate is that the “pull-efect” really works is the “S” part of SMB, (in fact, VSB), which are typically green-field businesses, often first-timers to transactional business software, without their own processes carved in stone, so they can test, configure and use software “out-of-the-box”. As we discussed, with size comes complexity, and since SAP targets the high-end of SMB, they will face such complexity, and that requires a “hybrid” model.

So far their Go-to-market strategy appears to be largely based on telesales and leaving support to a network of partners. Where these partners come from: existing All-in-One or Business One partners, or new ones – and if the first, how they will not cannibalize their existing business is a huge question.

A1S is a big bet for SAP,” said Gartner analyst Dan Sholler. “This has to succeed or they will have a whole host of business challenges ahead of them. No one has ever proven they can sell this type of business technology this way. SAP is betting the profitability of the company that it will be able to do it.

My bet is on SAP: they may stumble a number of times, which will effect their quarterly numbers – but in the end, I believe they will succeed. They will become the dominant SaaS player in the mid-market, forcing smaller players like NetSuite down-market. In the next 2-3 years while SAP flexes their On-demand muscles, we’ll see just how pervasive SaaS proves in the large corporate market, and that will determine whether A1S remains a midmarket solution or becomes the foundation of SAP’s forey into that market – their natural home base.

SAP understands New Media

Last but not least, a word on how SAP “gets it”. Part of Hasso Plattner’s “new idea” sounds like a Web 2.0 pitch: he embraces social networking, wikis, videos. How much, if any of these have made it into the first incarnation of A1S remains to be seen.

But SAP as a company themselves actively embrace new media. They have the best bloggers’ program, originally started by Jeff Nolan and now enjoying continued support by Michael Prosceno. I’m heading to the Big Show on Wednesday, but first tonight I’ll be in a group of 8 bloggers to meet SAP CEO Henning Kagerman. Two weeks later I will attend SAP TechEd, which, for the first time includes a full Community Day – an event certainly to be popular by bloggers. Oh, and who is the first keynote speaker? Mr. Web 2.0 Tim O’Reilly himself.

Not exactly dinosaur-like behavor, if you ask me.;-)

Off now, time to play tourist in Manhattan. And, in the meantime, I’ll be kept more then up-to-date on TechCrunch40 thanks to fellow bloggers on the scene.:-)


Office 2.0: Zoho Announces Business Edition

When Zoho introduced their first Web application a year and a half ago, they were little known, and nobody cared about their business model. But then something unusual happened: they kept on pumping out new applications every few weeks or so, and soon became the #2 (or by some count #1) force in the Web application space. While some of their competitors went out of business, others got acquired, others charge for their offering, Zoho continues to offer their services for free. Needless to say the business model comes up a lot more often nowadays.

Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu made it clear he is in for a Marathon, not a sprint, and he knows what he’s talking about: in the past decade he has already built a solid, profitable company, Adventnet, whose financial stability allows him to play in the SaaS market. He pledged to always offer most of his products free to individuals, yet he hinted there would be a revenue-generating business version of Zoho Services some day. But his priority was to build a solid set of services first, without having to rush to revenue. Until recently the emphasis was on perfecting the individual products (15 of them), and in the past few months Zoho started to focus on integrating them. Zoho Notebook, although in “individual” product, was a major milestone as it tightly integrated several other offerings: document editing, presentations, spreadsheets, communication, collaboration. The recently announced Zoho Start page was the first step in pulling several existing products together in a home base.

As a next logical step, this morning at the Office 2.0 Conference Zoho Business Edition will be introduced. The next two slides will help understand the segmentation between Zoho Personal and Business editions.

Personal is essentially the already existing set of services, with a few (those with gray background) additional ones still in private beta: Mail, Calendar, Tasks, Contacts. It’s interesting to note that these “new” services have already been on the Zoho palette for quite a while, but they were offered as part of Zoho Virtual Office, a downloadable Outlook-like product – they are now being rearchitected as a Web service. All of these services are, and continue to be offered free. The services in the right box, Meeting, Projects, Creator and CRM also have a free level, but they will have a premium, for-free version as well.

The next slide shows Zoho Business, essentially the same as Personal, with an added infrastructure layer added to manage ones domains, locations, users, groups, and also offering multiple levels of security, backup and enhanced support. Zoho Business is currently in private beta.

Despite recent speculation, this is not Zoho’s entrance to the Enterprise market.

Zoho Business is primarily meant for the SMB / SME segment (small businesses). That is not to say that the core Zoho applications would not be “enterprise ready” (they have large corporate accounts in Japan), but it’s not what they focus on for now. Anyone who follows Zoho will know that they are obsessed with cutting out fat: it’s a lean, efficient operation. The last thing Sridhar wants is to hire an expensive sales force, which is still the way to enter the Enterprise. Case in point: mighty Google themselves- I’ve shared my impressions of a Google Enterprise presentation, where I felt I was teleported to an Oracle or IBM Sales Show from the 90’s. Let them be the evangelists, and wait for the currently SMB services emerge in the Enterprise.

(Disclosure: I am an Advisor to Zoho)

Related posts: Between the Lines, /Message, Web Strategy, Centernetworks, Mashable, Read/WriteWeb, Zoho Blogs, TechCrunch, VentureBeat,,


Google & Zoho: Friend or Foe?

When Zoho introduced the offline version of their word processor, Zoho Writer, no commentators (including yours truly) missed the chance to point out the irony that the solution is based on Google Gears, while Google’s own competing Docs do not have this capability yet.

Zoho, which competes head-on with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, managed to launch offline functionality on their product before Google did. The fact that they are using Google software to do this makes the story somewhat ironic. (TechCrunch)

it’s very ironic that Zoho Writer has incorporated off-line features before its competitor, Google Docs, did. And by using Google Gears software developed by Google itself! (Proud Geek)

Donna Bogatin @ Insider Chatter went further:

What IS up with the would be Microsoft Office killer, Google Apps? Chief Googler Eric Schmidt proclaims “Search, Ads and Apps” is the new Google worldwide domination motto, but he is helping competitors Sun StarOffice AND Zoho attempt to steal Microsoft’s thunder, while Google Office remains Microsoft Office killer MIA.

First, Google subsidizes free downloads of Sun’s supposed Microsoft Office replacement via its Google Pack.

Now, Google Gears powers direct Google Apps competitor Zoho in an offline initiative, while Google Apps itself remains firmly in the cloud!

Google is either planning something VERY big for Google Apps, or it is retrenching.

While I have no idea what the plans for Google Apps are – after the StarOffice announcement there was speculation whether the future is syncing to StarOffice or Gears-based offline – they are definitely not retrenching. This is not a matter of “who gets there first”. In fact it’s not even cut-throat competition. Of all the reports, I believe Techdirt got it right:

As we noted when Gears was first announced, Google was clearly interested in advancing the whole area of web-based software, not just in pushing its own apps. Just as Microsoft seems hesitant to give even the slightest endorsement of this model, Google recognizes that it will benefit, regardless of which offerings users choose in the short term.

Exactly. Any time you, me, any user makes a choice between Google Docs or Zoho Writer, Google Spreadsheet or Zoho Sheet, it’s clearly a competitive situation. But in other ways, Google’s and Zoho’s interests are well aligned. I’ve said a number of times before, it’s not about slicing the pie yet, it’s about making sure the pie will be huge . Both Google and Zoho have vested interest in promoting the paradigm shift from PC-based to Web-based computing. Competitors can be friends – it’s not unheard of, just think of arch-rivals Oracle and SAP: cut-throat competitors in the enterprise application market – yet as a database vendor, Oracle is an important SAP partner.

But let’s be clear, I’m not trying to give the impression the Gears-based Zoho development was the result of some grand Google-Zoho master plan. Nothing would be further from the truth. Google Gears is an Open Source project (check out Donna Bogatin’s post for details) , a significant one, and “Mother Google” is not trying to control who uses it for what. Let’s go to the source though: Dion Almaer of the Google Gears team said:

Of course, Google could have held Gears back and released it at the same time as a bunch of offline Google applications, but that isn’t the point. Gears is about making the Web a better place through offline, and we want the Web to be able to benefit.

That is why I am excited to see (Zoho) Writer join the list of developers that use Gears.

In fact Dion called to congratulate the Zoho team, and visited their Pleasanton office to interview Sridhar Vembu, CEO, and Raju Vegesna, Evangelist. Here’s the video:

And if that was not enough media, Raju is going live on the Computer America radio show at 7pm PST tonight. (I hope he won’t sing smile_wink)

(Disclaimer: I’m an Advisor to Zoho, however, the article above is a reflection of my own thinking, not a statement from Zoho.)

Further reading: Zoho Blogs, Insider Chatter


Entrepreneur Assist Launched – Powered by Zoho

TechMeme’s algorithm is either buggy or smarter than I thought. This morning it linked two seemingly unrelated posts that both tackle the same underlying concept: measuring web site use.

Read/WriteWeb reported that Web Office suite provider ThinkFree hit the 1 Million mark in number of hosted documents, up from 654,000 in late February. Their 335,000 users (up from 250,000 in February) upload between 60,000 to 80,000 documents per month. Impressive numbers. Of course, numbers can get tricky, revealing more than intended: comparing users and documents, it appears the average ThinkFree user creates 1 document every 4-5 months. Of course there is no “average user”, I suspect the real situation is that a lot of users just signed up and never came back (the famous 53,651), so in reality ThinkFree probably has a lot less but more active users.

Competitor Zoho does not track the number of documents created, but the current user number is 310,000 up about 110,000 on the last few months, showing a faster growth rate than ThinkFree. Today’s announcement of Entrepreneur Assist, a personal homepage by, powered by Zoho applications will certainly accelerate that growth. is one of the largest small business sites, with millions of unique visitors per month… but why am I talking, let’s see some numbers:

Like I said, numbers are tricky, there are so many ways to look at them. Clearly a visit to search engine Google is a lot shorter than one to a content site, or one where users actually work, create a document, collaborate. For this reason the time users spend on a website is emerging as a an important metric. In fact if we look at time spent at the very same sites, we get a different picture:

As expected, users spend less time per visit on “read-only” sites, vs. the ones where they actually create something – and clearly teh Zoho apps will further improve this metric for This is partly the reason behind the deal, but watch the video yourself.

The next video talks about what you can actually do on Entrepreneur Assist:

Related posts: CenterNetworks, Mind Petals, Web Worker Daily, Zoho Blog.

Somewhat related: American Bar Association launches free legal advice site for small online businesses.


Can Tiny Zoho Beat Microsoft and Google in Online Office Apps? The Real Sanity Check

  If you write a blog you’ve probably had the feeling I have this morning: want to react to an article – but I already did just that, a month ago.   Nevertheless, TechRepublic’s piece on Sanity check: Can tiny Zoho beat Microsoft and Google in online office apps? is a good one, worth another go at the subject.

Executive Editor Jason Hiner is impressed by the Zoho Suite:

“It’s impressive that Zoho has created a broad fleet of full-featured online apps in a short period of time, but just as significant is the fact that it has done it without sacrificing simplicity and usability. That points to software that is well-conceived and well-developed.”

Jason finds that almost all of Zoho’s apps have the best feature set in their class of online apps, and he is not alone: see the MIT Technology Review, Gartner and countless blogs  in agreement.  He also points to potential weaknesses:

  • business model
  • security (of not just Zoho, but online apps in general) 
  • full offline capability.

It’s good to see Zoho’s Raju Vegesna acknowledge these, and stating they are working on them.  In the past 18 months Zoho has proven that when they say  “we’re working on it”, they better be taken seriously.

TechRepublic concludes:

In taking on Microsoft and Google in the office application arena, Zoho sees itself in the same mold as Microsoft taking on IBM in PCs in the early 1980s and Google taking on Microsoft and Yahoo in search in the past decade. It would be easy to wave off Zoho as a bug destined to be squashed, but judging by the quality of what Zoho has created so far, I wouldn’t count it out.

A very nice review, but let’s have a real sanity check: the question isn’t whether tiny Zoho can beat Microsoft and Google, but whether it needs to beat them at all.  I don’t think so.

This is not a winner-take-it-all, zero-sum game: all players, including Google and Zoho are creating a new, emerging market.  It’s not about slicing the pie yet, it’s about making sure the pie will be huge – and Google’s brand is the best guarantee to achieving that.  Little Zoho can be a tremendously successful business being second to Google.  There will always be room for a second .. third… perhaps fourth. Data privacy, the quality of the products, better service, or just having a choice – there will always be reasons for customers to opt for a non-Google solution.

The above is a quote from my earlier post, The Web Office Smackdown – Why It Does Not Matter, which covers further details, including Zoho’s small business apps, beyond the scope of Office.  For a better understanding of what Zoho is all about, I warmly recommend Sramana Mitra’s interview series with Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu.


On-demand CRM: Lunch is (Almost) Free

Will Microsoft eat’s lunch with their freshly announced pricing for hosted CRM? There is a heated debate on the subject, with longtime enterprise software guru Josh Greenbaum declaring that Microsoft is about to eat’s lunch:

“2008 promises to be the real year of on-demand CRM: It’s’s market to lose, and, unless something changes dramatically in their favor, lose it they will.”

Josh has been bearish on for a while, declaring it the next Siebel. It’s a bold call, but calling it ahead of the curve, based on fundamentals, going against the trend is what makes a real analyst. does not seem to be worried about their lunch-ticket though:

“What it looks like is that Microsoft is just marking down an inferior product to what customers are actually paying right now. “

says Bruce Francis, vice president of corporate strategy on Tod Bishop’s Blog. Ouch! He goes on:

“Also, one thing that I haven’t seen is the url where I can sign up for a 30-day trial.”

Well, I can point to such a URL, albeit not at Microsoft: (Disclaimer: I’m an advisor to Zoho)

I’ve long stated that Zoho’s product is actually more than just CRM: with Sales Order Management, Procurement, Inventory Management, Invoicing functionality Zoho seems to have the makings of a CRM+ERP solution, under the disguise of the CRM label. The company also stated they are working on Accounting and HR, they have a database/application Creator, and the best-in-class Office Suite: can you see the Big Picture?

Now, for the best part: pricing. Microsoft is heralded to undercut with their $44/$59 per user pricing. That’s still a hefty price, if you ask me – Zoho CRM is free for the first 3 users, then $12 per user. I don’t know who is eating whose lunch, but if you are a business user, $12 bucks for CRM+++ is as close to a free lunch ticket as you can get.smile_regular

How can Zoho do this? They are passionate about the real meaning of the On-Demand revolution: bringing good quality yet affordable software as a service to the masses. They are an efficient development “machine” and manage to cut out “fat”: Sales expenses, traditionally representing 70-80% of costs in the enterprise software business. We have an ongoing debate in the Enterprise Irregulars on whether this inexpensive “pull” model is hype or reality. The nay-sayers point to, or the new IPO-hopeful NetSuite: sales costs are sky high, and for all the “no software” revolution Marc Benioff has brought about, he employs a rather traditional enterprise sales staff, a’la Oracle. The key differentiator IMHO is the target market:

“ is focusing more of its efforts these days on capturing larger enterprise accounts”

-says Phil Wainewright, and that means traditional, expensive sales. Viral Marketing, demand generation, try-online-then-sign-up works better with the Small Business market, which is what Zoho is focusing on. The Street only seems to value the large corporate market, so it’s understandable that venture funded, IPO-driven or already public companies strive to move up the chain; Zoho is privately owned, and can afford to grow their business as they wish – apparently they see the goldmine waiting to be explored on the SMB market.

Related posts on TechMeme:, Enterprise Anti-matter, Software as Services, Steve Clayton, Techdirt , CNET, Microsoft News Tracker ,Zoho Blogs

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Software 2007: Plattner to Turn the SAP Mothership Again

Photo Credit: Dan Farber, ZDNet For half an hour or so I felt I was back at University at Software 2007 – in Professor Hasso Plattner’s class. That’s because his keynote was a compressed version of his recent SAPPHIRE 07 speech, which in turn was an “offsite class” for his Stanford students – literally so, he flew the entire class out to Atlanta. To make his point, he used the blackboard-metaphor, with chalked handwriting (and dressed in matching blacksmile_shades).

I don’t normally enjoy keynotes, but found this one fascinating: it was about a lot more than most in the audience thinks – more on this later…

The “lecture” was about his New Idea for enterprise software – more than an idea, it started as a side-project about 5 years ago, then about 3 years ago they realized they can’t do it with one codebase.. so it became a completely separate system from SAP’s current business suite. They kept the project secret as long as they could, but this year they started to talk about it: it’s code-named A1S, and currently 3000 people are working on it (For comparison, has less than 200 engineers). It will be On-Demand, and not a point-solution, but a full-featured, integrated business solution, as one would expect from SAP.

Some of my raw notes on the key concepts:

  • On-demand: Google, showed it works. Time now for the whole enterprise to run in the cloud. Very small footprint at customer.
  • New markets: small business customers.
  • Key difference: user-centric design. Iteration, version 7 of user interface already, it will be 8 or 9 before it launches. Every single functions delivered either by browser or smart client. They look 100% identical. Office (MS) client, Mobile, too.
  • Separation of UI, App, Db – physical sep, multiple UI’s for same App. Front ends very specific to industries. Portal based. Company, departmental portal. User roles. Multiple workplaces. In smaller companies users have multiple workplaces. High degree of personalization.
  • Event driven approach. Model based system. Instead of exposing source code, expose the model. Not just documentation, active models. Change system behavior through models. Very different from SAP’s original table-based customization. Completely open to access by/ to other system. 2500+ service interfaces exposed.
  • The future of software design will be driven by community. SDN 750K members, 4000 posts per day. We’ll have hundreds of thousands of apps from the community. Blogs, Wikis, Youtube.
  • In-memory databases. Test: 5years accounting, 36 million line items. 20G in file 1.1G compressed in memory. Any question asked > 1.1sec. There is no relational database anymore. Database can be split over multiple computers. Finally information will be in the user’s fingertips. Google-speed for all Enterprise information. Analytics first, eventually everything in memory.

For a more organized writeup, I recommend Dan Farber’s excellent summary, and for the full details watch the original SAPPHIRE 07 Keynote (after a bit of salesy intro).

As it became obvious during the post-keynote private press/blogger discussion, most in the room thought Plattner was talking about the mysterious A1S, SAP’s yet-to-be-seen On-Demand SMB offering – although he made it clear he intentionally never used the A1S moniker. I think what we heard was a lot more – but to understand it, one has understand Hasso Plattner himself. No matter how his formal position changed, the last active SAP Founder has always been the Technology Visionary behind the company – the soul of SAP, it there is such a thing.smile_wink He is not a product-pusher, not a marketer: he sets direction for several years ahead.

SAP has an existing (legacy) market to protect, and they clearly don’t want the On-Demand product to cannibalize that market. But Plattner knows On-Demand is coming, and I bet the SMB space will be the test-bed to the new system eventually “growing up” to all of SAP’s market segments. Hasso Plattner gets the On-Demand religion, and when he gets a new religion, SAP typically follows. Plattner oversaw two major paradigm changes: the move from mainframe to client/server, which was entirely his baby, and the move to SOA/Netweaver, where he embraced Shai Agassi’s initiatives. The ‘New Idea” will likely be the last time Plattner turns the Mothership around. Next he will need to find “another Shai” to make sure there is a strong tech DNA in SAP’s leadership, as the Sales/Marketing types take over at the helm.


iGoogle, but Which One? Time to Fix the Google Apps Chaos…


Now that they got a snazzy name (whatever happened to Google’s naming convention of coming up with beauties like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Docs & Spreadsheets & Presentations & Wikis, & insert-new-product-here? smile_wink ) perhaps it’s time to eliminate the chaos Google caused by sloppy implementation of the otherwise great Google Apps service.

If you’re not familiar with the latter, I strongly suggest reading David Berlind’s excellent overview at ZDNet. He concludes that there are two parallel Google-worlds: the consumer, public one we all know, and one that’s being built somewhat under the radar, allowing businesses to customize their own domain, maintain users, security, business email, calendar, documents – essentially white-labeling Google’s applications.

That’s all great, except that access to the private-domain features is accidental at best – let me share my experience. When I signed up, I linked my own domain to may existing Google Account, which is tied to a Gmail address. Now I’m a happy gmail user while preserving my own domain. So far so good – trouble starts trying to access any other Google Apps.

  • I can easily get to them by direct URL’s in the form of, …etc – but what happens when I try to *really* use them, say, import a calendar entry from, zvents, or any event site? The “old” calendar at comes up as default.
  • Recently I tried installing the Etelos CRM add-on to Google – guess what, it went to the personalized homepage (now iGoogle) at and I had no way to force it to install at – which is attached to the same Google account.
  • What about Gmail and Google Docs integration? If you use your “regular” gmail account and receive a Microsoft Word/Excel document, there’s an option to view them as a Google Doc or Spreadsheet. The first few times I tried to use the same option from my branded gmail account ( I got a “document not found” error. Google must have realized the trouble, they now removed the “View as Google Doc” option from Google Apps email.
  • Even the otherwise excellent Google Groups is messed up: when I am logged in as, Google Groups I am a member of with this account won’t recognize me. I actually have to have duplicate identities created in Google Groups: one to be able to send email (my own domain) and one to be able to access Group’s other features via the browser (@gmail format).

Perhaps it’s obvious by now that the trouble is not with the individual applications. The Google Accounts concept is a total chaos. It creates a dual identity, and while I can always access the private-label Google Apps via direct URL, in a short while the default pops up its nasty head and the original, public (@gmail) format and applications take over. Net result: I gave up trying to use Google Apps, except for Gmail. And I can’t help but agree with this TechCrunch commenter:

“…Instead I have this hamstrung barely functional thing where my login refuses to work anywhere else on Google and none of the apps have a link back to the portal page! So much for Single Sign On. And forget importing from an existing account in any slick way. A huge missed opportunity whilst the waste time playing with logos and bad branding on /ig”

Now, on a less serious note, back to the naming issue: If (when?) Google’s phone comes out, will it be an iPhone? After all, Steve Jobs has just demonstrated that being first does not mattersmile_sarcastic

Update (5/7/2007): I’ve been wondering why there was no huge outcry because of the above – after all it renders some apps quite useless. Now I understand: apparently you can now sign up for Google Apps directly with your domain, without having to tie it to a pre-existing Google Account. This is good news, since a lot less users are affected. This is also bad news, for the very same reason: less users, less pressure to fix it, so the early Beta users are stuck…

Update (1/20/08): I think it is fixed now. :-)

Related posts:

The Official Google Blog, Google Blogoscoped, TechCrunch, Lifehacker, parislemon, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Techscape, VentureBeat, Micro Persuasion, Reuters, Search Engine Land, Googling Google, PC World: Techlog, Search Engine Roundtable, WebMetricsGuru,, Read/WriteWeb

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Two-Word Strategy for the Math-Challenged

Small Business Trends interviews Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines, LLC on his two-word business strategy.  The interview starts with a few examples:

Gary Harpst: Examples of a two-word strategy statement might include:

  • Hot Donuts (Krispy Kreme)
  • Computers Direct (Dell)
  • Quick Automotive Service (Jiffy Lube)

Excuse me?  Which word is Jiffy Lube supposed to drop to get down to two? Question