Readers of this blog must have seen that recently I have been spending quite some time discussing 'software + services'. I know that Phil thinks S+S is bunkum but I have to disagree on that one. Of course, an S+S world would disproportionately benefit Microsoft as it is the only company with massive assets on both sides of the equation, but it is not why I believe in it. I believe in S+S because when done properly it is far superior to a 'cloud-only' SaaS model.
Here is a classic example:
I love Office 2007, the interface is clean, efficient and now very familiar. Far, far, far superior to any web based productivity tools I tested. The problem of course was collaboration and anywhere access. How do I share documents with others and/or how do I access my docs from anywhere. Now I use Office Live workspaces in conjunction to Office. The combination of the two is very appealing:
I use Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) locally to author a document, presentation or spreadsheet and Office Live workspace in the cloud to collaborate with others and as an anywhere access store. The integration is very smooth via the Office add-in. As shown in the image below:
(note that these type of solutions have been around for quite some time within the corporate boundaries of enterprises, and/or with Office Live; the big difference here is that it is now available 'out there in the cloud' for free (well ad-funded). Of course you need to have Office on your machine, but with Home and Student edition going for <$150 I find it a price worth paying for both the features and the local/offline aspect of it. (disclosure: as an employee I pay less than that for Office (for private use), but I would easily be willing to pay $150 was I not an employee)
I agree with Phil though that having the back end as a hosted solution is very good. No hassles in term of installation, data backup etc. but as far as user interaction is concern, I am a big believer in bringing it as close to the user as possible. Why would I ever want the cloud between me and my work? As I mentioned many times in this blog, the problem is not running client software (there is plenty of CPU, Memory and Disk at the edge), the problem is easy deployment. I would rather focus time on fixing the root cause (deployment) than working on the symptoms.
I have to confess that I miss 1 feature in Office / Office Live Workspace combo that I find very powerful in several web based productivity tools: the ability to have more than 1 person work on the same document at the same time. I mitigate that with the usage of SharedView but in the few cases of "real time" collaboration, concurrent access to the document is better. But this is a missing feature not a fundamental flaw in the model.
So tell me, is this really an appealing hybrid model? Or have I drunk too much Kool-Aid? :)