A great white paper has recently been published on MSDN by some of my colleagues .
This paper goes through the relationship between ISVs and Hosters, it is a really useful insight for anyone considering adopting a Software + Services business model.
great work from Frederick Chong, Gianpaolo Carraro, Eugenio Pace (all from Microsoft Corporation) & Matt Baldwin (Hostway Corporation)
Here is an excerpt from the paper:
The case for specialized Software as a Service (SaaS) hosting can be easily rationalized by examining an incompatible pair of anecdotal fact and reality:
· Fact: When we explore the expertise of software vendors today, we find that most of them will not claim operating a hosting environment as a core competency. Actually, many would also cite operational excellence as a key barrier of entry into the SaaS market. This observation should not come as a surprise to the reader.
· Reality: However, when we take a look at the prevailing market situation, delivering SaaS applications often depends on hosting solutions that are “home-brewed” by the software vendors themselves. This is to say that in addition to implementing the application logic, many SaaS software vendors themselves will need to design, develop, and integrate the operational modules for their service offerings. As illustrated in Figure 1, the service delivery components, such as billing, metering, and logging, are built by the application vendor and integrated into the application stack.
The key observation from the datum above is that many ISVs are re-implementing operational components by necessity, not because those infrastructure additions provide significant value to differentiating the core features of the applications. Moreover, building these components add to the time and cost of delivering the application. Therefore, for the software vendors, most of such redundant work and expenditure can be eliminated if the software vendors can obtain the same operational functions from third parties that specialize in SaaS hosting.
Link to the white paper on MSDN here.
Info on hosting - http://www.microsoft.com/serviceproviders/hostingproviders.mspx
Heard of Windows Live Quickstart ? – if you are developing anything that could benefit from integration with any of Microsoft’s Live Services, then you should have!
Windows Live Quickstart portal provides a single point of access to gain insight to the Microsoft live platform , what is there already and what is soon to be released.
The portal provides access to information and resources to rapidly develop, customize and implement solutions. This basically falls into a number of categories....
· Learn – Overview of offer, “how to” documents, business and partner opportunities, training, webcasts/videos
· Build – Technical decks, whitepapers, webcasts/videos, demos, training, SDK’s, wiki’s, technical support
· Market – Existing marketing programs, collateral, presentations, webcasts/videos
· Sell – Pitch deck for Microsoft Partners, customer/partner evidence, datasheets, FAQ’s, product roadmap, sales support for partners
A couple of other useful sites....
I know Microsoft Partners have been after this info for a while. And in a good way. Not the kind of ‘after it’ where they want to wait for school to finish and duff it up. No, not that kind.
Ok, so it’s not exactly breaking news but it’s cool none the less....
I have had my Zune for about 2 months now and if i am honest have been very frustrated and disappointed with it. I have found the device great, love the quality of the video and music and really impressed with the compression.
My frustration has always been with the software and how difficult it is to set folders to synchronise and to get downloaded content to the device L - had a few instances where the only solution was to download a track, burn it onto CD and then import from CD to the Zune software – a royal pain in the podcast!
Any way rant over!
This latest software release is really cool, it has a much nicer UI and the menu’s are slick and easy to navigate. Synchronisation is a doddle (and it works!!) – Love it!
I have been won back from the arms of my IPod.....
Just wanted to reference a great blog from my colleague Lars Lindstedt
On a recent trip to the Microsoft Research labs in Cambridge he picked up these top 5 tips for entrepreneurs and innovators.....
1. Look for the gaps. Often the best ideas are right in front of you — you just have to see them. Innovators are consummate observers of what people do and how things get done. They identify gaps between existing products and technologies, and consider how a new approach might be more efficient, engaging or cool. For example, Microsoft researchers observed that traditional answering machines do a poor job of helping people manage their voice messages, particularly for an entire family. So they developed the Bubble Board, a wall-mounted touch screen that gives families a simple, visual way to identify and manage individual phone messages. Try this: Devote a half day to watching how different people interact with an object of your choice, such as a mobile phone or a bicycle or a ticket kiosk. How could the object be improved for a better user experience? What other objects are related to your chosen object’s function? What new strategies might be used to accomplish the same objective, but smarter, faster or more enjoyably?
2. Many heads are better than one. Inspiration drawn from numerous disciplines tends to lead to the most successful products, and rarely does one person embody all of the knowledge required to develop a viable concept. That’s why collaboration is so important to the process of innovation. Surface computing — tabletop computer displays that interact with people and objects in a remarkably intuitive way — is one such example. The research behind surface computing drew upon people who understand electronics, human-computer interaction and computer vision techniques. Microsoft’s Cambridge lab added another layer of innovation on top of this with C-Slate, which allows people at different locations to work together using surface computing. For this project, social anthropologists worked closely with the technical developers to create a useful and intuitive interface. Try this: Invite two or three people who represent very different educational and professional backgrounds to a brainstorming session. Present your innovative idea to the group and ask them to offer their impressions and related ideas. Lead the discussion to capture their creative thinking and practical insights.
3. Do your research. If your idea is so great, why hasn’t someone else already thought of it? The internet is your first stop, to find out whether your idea has already been developed. Online articles, patent information, blogs and company websites are all potential sources of relevant information. You should also reach out to primary sources of information. What experts can you identify who would be willing to advise you and share their knowledge? Try this: Identify a technical or market-focused expert and make an appointment to discuss your innovative idea. Consider your questions carefully beforehand, to ensure you gain the insight that this person can provide.
4. Don’t let failure get you down. Failure is an integral part of innovation and, while painful, it is one of the best teachers. The hard part is recognising when things are going badly, and being honest with yourself about it. Of course not all ideas are great ideas and timing is also an important factor in market adoption. You have to be able to admit when it’s time to quit, and recover from that. At Microsoft, researchers minimise the number of dead-end projects by placing high value on peer review. By critiquing each other’s work, researchers receive critical help identifying the weaknesses in their concept. As an innovator, you must become comfortable listening to skeptics and develop the personal confidence to defend your convictions, while recognising that others may have insight that you do not. Try this: Develop a 1-minute sales pitch about your product and test it on five people for their reaction. Encourage them to give you their honest impression — the positive and the negative.
5. Develop your business know-how. For any start-up, the research and initial concept typically represents 1% of the overall investment. Getting that product to market consumes about 10%. And the remaining 89% is spent on sales, marketing and support. As an innovator, you will have to develop a feel for business. This does not mean you need a business degree, but you will need the perspective to entice investors and introduce your product to the marketplace. You will also need to develop a business model that protects your intellectual property and prevents others from taking your idea and doing it better. This protection could take the form of a patent or it could hinge on your product being the first out of the gate. There are many schemes for young people to learn basic business skills, such as Young Enterprise or The Working Knowledge Group, to help you gain perspective on the facets and pressures of running a business. Try this: Determine what the “secret sauce” of your innovation will be. How will you secure a leading position after you have launched your product?
So from my last three posts... go change the world J
Following on from my last post I thought I’d share a few tips on raising capital funds. It always helps to have your value proposition well thought out but also very direct and punchy. My team will quite often ask for a one page document that we can use to introduce companies to potential investors, this can also be used by the company themselves as a first stage introduction, generally, this format has been well received...
· Company details: who you are, where you are based, contact details
· Solution overview: briefly describe your solution and what you do
· Market overview: describe the market need you are addressing (macro / micro economic trend behind their business or customer pain they are solving) and address size of the market ($, Growth %, % that is addressable by them)
· Unique selling proposition: describe why you are special and how that will enable you to be successful
· Business model: How do you deliver your solution (SaaS, licensing, services) and how do you charge for it?
· Financials: disclose your revenues and (where applicable) split them between main products/offerings (e.g. software, services)
· Team: provide management team overview and company size information
· Funding requirements: what you are looking for and what it will be used for in the short/medium term
You should also be clear about what you want and why, as well as being able to offer a clear elevator pitch in under 30 seconds.
If you get the opportunity to present your venture then there are also plenty of useful tips. Guy Kawasaki has a neat rule for creating presentations: the ‘10’ ‘20’ ‘30’ rule...
· No more than 10 slides
· No longer than 20 minutes
· No font smaller than 30
Make sure you take a look at his blog and also read his latest book J
A pitch that i saw whilst in Brussels that worked really well was from Jim Cook at Ikordo his pitch consisted of a video overview of the solution, his asks and questions! - great! Take a look at the animated overview at www.ikordo.com
A few small and simple tips, but hopefully they will help J