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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Marc Benioff & Hybrid Hosting

Marc Benioff was special guest in the recent Gillmor Gang (VIdeo Gang Parts I and II).   After getting through the initial discussion on SalesForce.com earnings we moved on to talk about the SaaS business and their application platform.

Mike Vizard led off the questions about ApEx with a good one: how will SalesForce get developer traction for their language / environment / form?  Marc enumerated several things they are doing about that.  Most of this is kind of “business as usual” for those building a developer community, though I do think that one of their strategies is pretty innovative: rent out cubicles to developers in a building devoted to ApEx development (this is happening in old offices of Siebel — this would be ironic if it weren’t intentional).  These developers get everything they need to build apps on the SalesForce platform.

This may turn out to be of great value to those who are already interested in the platform.  Of course, the drive for developers to build applications on ApEx will come down to one thing: is there a viable marketplace for the applications they build? 

Clearly Marc and SalesForce understand this fully.   They are not pushing the “build it and they will come” mantra; instead, they have built an application exchange (i.e., the AppExchange) to enable a viable marketplace.

On a slightly different tack, I asked Marc to talk a little about their hosting capabilities for third party applications sold through the AppExchange.  Without getting into too much detail about the different kinds of applications that support the ApEx (native, client, hybrid, etc.) there is a class of applications that requires external hosting.  These applications take advantage of the SalesForce.com APIs yet are not built on the ApEx platform.  As a result, these applications are not hosted by SalesForce.com. 

I grok why they choose not to post these hybrid applications.  Doing so requires a different hosting model: one that is application-specific possibly supporting different hardware requirements, different OSes, different staff, etc. I can only guess that they have made the decision not to do this in favor of their “pure” ApEx strategy.  Certainly the “pure” strategy is a lot cleaner, more focused, more repeatable,  more like an “product sale” instead of an implementation sale . . .

However, lets go back to the earlier point of developer adoption.  Wouldn’t it be easier to get developers to adopt ApEx and AppExchange and the whole concept of SaaS if you were able to provide a hybrid hosting solution?

This reminds me a little bit of .NET.   One of the key features of .NET is support for COM.  If users had to throw out their legacy code to begin to adopt .NET in their organization, .NET would have had a much slower adoption rate.  They don’t. 

It sound likes an ApEx developer who wants to take advantage of the AppExchange has to either start everything from scratch or provide their own hosting solution.

So I wonder, would SalesForce be able to ramp up developer adoption rates with a hybrid hosting strategy?

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Better Bad News Riffs on Gang

Gillmor Gang Smackdown draws a crowd as tech talk gets rowdy at Better Bad News.

I listened to see if my voice of reason made the cut — it didn’t.  Rseason doesn’t entertain.

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Defending Pragmatism

On the recent Gillmor Gang (MidTail Gang), you can catch me disagreeing with Jason Calacanis on rollups. He argues that only “loser” entrepreneurs sell their companies into rollups.

I argued that this is simplistic — that sometimes a rollup is the best choice for a company to make. He conceded that in a weak market (and again, if you are a loser), this might be the way to go.

Interesting that Jason articulates his point purely in terms of the entrepreneur: if you are strong, you find a way to win or fail trying.

Failure is a part of being an entrepreneur, but successful companies are made up of more than just the entrepreneur(s).

What about other stakeholders? What if the options are: “fail” or “rollup”? Your employees all get jobs and maybe the investors get to let their money ride.

I think that this will always feel like losing to the entrepreneur. This will never be the grand vision he or she was working towards. But winning and losing is not so black and white.

Am I defending a loser mentality? No, I think I’m just defending pragmatism.

Disclaimer: I have never been a part of a rollup nor am I seeking one out!

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Search SIG: The Search for Attention

I’ll be at the SDForum Search SIG tonight: The Search for Attention. Jeff Clavier (the SIG chair) has a post about it here.

Steve Gillmor is hosting the panel discussion with Dick Costolo, Gabe Rivera, David Sifry, and Seth Goldstein.

Steve will be talking about GestureBank — I’ve been teaming with him on its architecture — his presentation will precipitate much interest and discussion.

If you are there, look me up.

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Dave Winer’s Geek Dinner for Scoble

Last night, Dan and I went to the geek dinner Dave Winer hosted for Robert Scoble. While I’ve been to many parties and dinners full of geeks, this was my first “geek dinner.”

There was an interesting mix of people: entrepreneurs from Web 2.0 startups, various software developers, many bloggers, and other assorted geeks.

The highlight of the evening for me was the discussion that started just before the restaurant closed. We adjourned to the parking lot to continue until it became too cold and too late (although, apparently Robert and Steve Gillmor kept it going for another hour and a half, see Geek dinner Gillmortastic). It was a little challenging to get Steve Gillmor’s entire point, although I guess Robert finally got it after we all left.

The conversation was, I think, a typical one: why Microsoft doesn’t get Web 2.0 (i.e., how Google will beat Microsoft). Steve Gillmor has some pretty strong views about the mind share that Google has regarding applications. Yet he believes that Office will lose (or has lost) the battle. It appears that he wants to see AJAX-enabled interfaces to everything. All browser-based, all thin-client.

I think the major point of disagreement between Gillmor and many others in the crowd had to do with the utility of browser-based software models. For example:

  • Gillmor wants to do all of his RSS reading on the Web. I don’t. I prefer a model with the advantages of a smart client (rich UI and disconnected operation) that also allows me a surely Web-based interface. Newsgator is a perfect example of this. Both Robert and I use NewsGator in Outlook and from the Web. I also use it from my WM5 device. Even better, they are all synchronized.
  • Gillmor wants to write all his articles in e-mail. He said something to the effect of “e-mail will supplant the use of Word in the next six months”. This comment nearly resulted in a wager. I believe he is talking about a very small group of technologically-savvy early-adopters.

If Gillmor prefers Web-only, then more power to him. And he is right, there are many like him who feel the same way. But there are also a huge number of people (and these are not just corporate users) that prefer the installed-software model.

Google has enjoyed a great deal of popularity as an answer to Microsoft’s dominance. They have a stockpile of goodwill and trust from people simply because they are not Microsoft. This is not permanent. The bigger they get, the more profitable they are (if that’s possible), the more people they piss off with their own kind of over-reaching, the more this is going to wane.

And Microsoft is not standing still. Certainly, they’re concerned about Google (and I hope more concerned about supporting different models of user interaction than just Google). Next year is going to be a big year for Microsoft. I am not ready to count them out of this “Web 2.0” market.

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