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Where is the enterprise computing headed

This post by Nick Carr, with copious quotes from a CIO magazine article by Wen Worthen, nicely articulates some of my recent thoughts on where a big part of enterprise computing, the part that deals with collaborative development of ideas, proposals and even work artifacts and touches the lives of most knowledge workers, is headed in next 5 to 10 years -- to Web based software or Software as a Service (SaaS). Given the technological developments in last few years and current user expectations, this seems to be a forgone conclusion. However, which company will emerge as the dominant force -- Google, Microsoft or an entirely different player, perhaps a new entrant -- is much harder to predict.

As the CIO magazine article states, and I said as much in an earlier blog entry Google's approach to TCO blog entry, Google's advantage lie in its hard-to-replicate computing infrastructure. For quite some time people believed that this infrastructure was very specific for large-scale Search and won't be suitable for other applications. But to me it appears that Google has been extending the platform and building additional abstractions and capabilities for any application that needs to support large data sets and large number of users. This is also evident from a variety of applications introduced by them in recent months.

A decade ago, Microsoft changed the lives of countless knowledge workers by introducing, and periodically enhancing, MS-Office applications. However, these apps are fundamentally designed for a disconnected desktop and even a feeble attempt on online collaboration using these apps degenerates into unmanageable back-and-forth transmissions of huge documents over email. Though some online alternatives, such as Wikis, Sharepoint, blogs, have emerged as alternatives, they suffer from a number of other limitations and are yet not ready for prime time, atleast within the enterprise. Web based authoring tools similar to MS-Office apps don't address this problem either.

In a nutshell, there is a huge opportunity open to both Google and Microsoft to experiement with newer tools and integrations made possible by increase bandwidth, richer browsers, almost always connectedness etc. to support the kind of collaboration needed within a typical enterprise. In fact, I would put the neat integration of Gmail and GTalk in this category. Currently I use MS-Outlook and Jabber at work, both administered and controlled by the IT department, but would gladly move to GMail and GTalk, given a choice.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 4, 2006 9:38 AM.

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