While digging through some older posts, I came across the “Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook” release announcement from 18 months ago. Google recently released version 2.5 of the product just over 1 week ago. An open question was how Microsoft would respond. Windows Live was the response. The functionality matched Google Apps for email, contacts and calendar. Windows Live versions of the Office suite have followed.

Exchange has long been a category killer for Microsoft. Google is going for the jugular. The most obvious objection to Google Apps will be “our guys love Outlook.” You do not hear much about the product, yet it is still being updated while scores of other Google projects bite the dust. Windows Live did go through a major upgrade over the summer. I use the Windows Live email for one of my accounts. I have been a happy gMail user for years, but wanted to see how the service matched up. The summer upgrade helped tremendously. No longer will emails from the same domain end up in my spam folder. The down side was that I lost 6 months of emails in the upgrade. Nothing terribly important, but occasionally, I find myself searching for one of those lost messages.

The Google vs Microsoft enterprise battle is just starting to heat up. Will be interesting to see what this looks like in a year.

Microsoft to mobile developers: Your app is worth more than 99¢

The business model of 99 cent applications is not good for application developers. There are many other issues with the iPhone development. It is refreshing to see another vendor take it on. Competition is good. Check the above link from TechFlash.

98 seconds of xRM sizzle.

With all the furor of the Google Voice iPhone app situation going on. I have had a few conversations about people wanting to port iPhone apps to other platforms mainly, Android and Windows Mobile. Going cross-carrier and platform seems to be the goal. Easier said than done especially depending on the app.

Check this case study: Ready to Port your iPhone App to Windows Mobile?

Great read by Holman Jenkins, Jr. in the WSJ Opinion Page discussing the recent Google OS and Office Live announcements.

Check Techdom’s Two Cold Wars at the WSJ.

A follow up from last month’s post: Cloudy in Seattle. Azure has released their business model, pricing and official release date. Mid-November is still the official word for the commercial release.

Check: Azure Services Overview Pricing & Licensing Overview

Official Press Release: Microsoft Unveils Windows Azure Platform Business Model, Bringing New Revenue Opportunities to Partners Worldwide

TechCrunch: Microsoft’s Azure Gets A Business Model And An Official Release Date

Additional Azure Resources:
Steve Marx on Azure for Developers: Windows Azure: Cloud Computing in Application Services

Microsoft Channel 9 from pdc2008: pdc2008 Azure posts

via TechCrunch: Why Chrome OS Now? Because Microsoft Office In The Cloud Comes Monday.

I have played around with the limited functionality of Office Live. It is good, not great, and about what I would expect from a beta. I had some formatting issues with some documents. Nothing major. Hopefully these quirks have been ironed out.

Supposedly, Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans will announce full Office in the Cloud on Monday. The enterprise/desktop application cloud space is getting interesting. Microsoft’s huge install base will be a tremendous advantage. Redmond needs to leverage that to the full. Yes, this development does make the Google OS interesting. If Microsoft leverages their huge install base well (i.e. Not pull another Vista), Google OS will likely not be much of a factor. Microsoft will have to spend some PR cycles on Google OS though. The word Monday puts the Mamas and Papas hit “Monday Monday” in to my head.

Monday Monday, so good to me,
Monday Monday, Office in the cloud was all I hoped it would be
Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn’t guarantee
That Monday evening you would have to still email that PowerPoint to me.

Last week @ Cloudforce Seattle, Salesforce.com demonstrated some impressive Twitter integration into their Service application. From a CRM perspective, you want to know what your customers are saying whether in sales or service. For Sales, it helps get you to personal faster. For service, it helps you show the love. In researching similar and related technologies, TwInbox for Outlook looks promising.

Check this Microsoft Showcase video about TwInbox: Office Casual: How to Twitter in Outlook (with TwInbox).

The Email Standards Project has started a proverbial avalanche for Microsoft via Twitter. Check TechCrunch: Microsoft, Outlook Is Broken, Says 6,000 Tweets (And Growing). Fix It.

Also check Microsoft to ignore web standards in Outlook 2010 – enough is enough at Email Standards Project.

To get in include the http://fixoutlook.org/ URL somewhere in your tweet.

Finally getting back to Cloudforce Seattle and the tons of info learned last week. The message was clearly that Salesforce.com is not just applications. Cloudforce Seattle was all about the platform moving to the cloud. I have a notion that there will be several “clouds” in the future. Clearly, Salesforce.com aims to be the enterprise cloud.

Taking an educated guess, but if I was employed by Salesforce.com I would see the cloud(s) through the following lens:

  • Amazon AWS: Raw horsepower for the cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Google Apps: Powering the desktop cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Windows Azure: Microsoft Redux. Not serious for the enterprise. Find every hole and angle to exploit.
  • Facebook: Pure social play. Not a competitor until they are a revenue threat.
  • IBM & everyone else: Legacy vertical stacks. Too many holes to exploit. Focus on Salesforce.com advantage for each opportunity.

The Cloud Model will adhere to 3 themes: Multi-tenant, pay-as-you-go and elastic. The cloud is multi-tenant. Period. That is the only way to scale and offer the elasticity that the model requires. Without multi-tenant, it is merely remote hosting of previous application server provider (ASP) models. Pay-as-you-go is an interesting concept. Gone are the days of large outlays of capital and then turn-and-burn for the ROI. The Cloud allows for modest investment upfront. You can try a service easily. The main objection has been and will be “lock-in”. Prospects do not like the notion that you will host and somehow own their data. The industry media has not helped this notion. The elasticity is the value in the cloud for both parties. The relative cost of adding more capacity to the customer is cheap and the price the customer pays for added capacity is as well. Make not mistake though, the old days of huge margin for enterprise software providers is long gone. Smaller Cloud providers will find themselves up against increased barriers to entry.

The business value proposition will be around 3 themes as well: No capital expense, modest operating expense and scales with your business. No capital expense has been, is and will be a huge selling point. Companies finance departments may not understand this concept. Capital budgets are different from operating budgets. How much operating budget is based on usage and a lot of customers will have difficulty with this pay-as-you-go concept. They want to plan usage and that in the past has been done on a capital outlay. Cloud customers will need to get better at capacity planning their cloud usage. Salesforce.com and other cloud providers will need to spend the time to educate that usage is the new pricing.

This does next to zero for the sales cycle though. It is still as long and laborious. I speak from experience.

Immediately post-Cloudforce Seattle, I had identified 5 highlights:

  • Visual Force, Model–view–controller (MVC) framework for custom user interfaces
  • Mobile Lite, Free (for most) Salesforce.com mobile application
  • Force.com Sites and Free Edition
  • Integrated Content Library
  • Genius, Think iTunes Genius for Salesforce collaboration

Visual Force provides an MVC framework for custom user interfaces as a service. MVC (Model, view, controller) is a standard framework for development. Since most user interface development is done through this type of framework, it is an advantage. Less re-tooling for development staff, less hurdles to clear from IT. The MVC framework carries over to Force.com Sites and will allow for a rich visual experience. Smart move.

Mobile Lite and the Mobile product has a mantra: “Write once, run anywhere” to iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. I have not been able to look into this further, but I know first-hand the difficulties of going cross-platform in the mobile space. “It ain’t easy.” Mobile Lite is a free for most versions of Salesforce.com and provides a lot of bang for Sales. It can take call logs from the phone and update Salesforce. What Sales would not want to have to make sure that his or her activity was logged? The mobile development angle on Force.com is intriguing and I will dive into that deeper.

Force.com Site and Free Edition were the stars of the event. If there was one point they wanted you to leave with it was Force.com Sites. From the impressive Starbucks/Appirio demo to the equally impressive GameCraze demo site by EDL Consulting, Salesforce.com wants to provide the world with the capability of customer facing systems on the same platform. Free Edition is a call to developers to an application vendors to test the waters of the enterprise cloud. The barrier to entry cannot get much lower than free. I would expect to see some interesting startups come from this.

The Integrated Content Library was just plain cool. It allows tagging, ratings, comments and search capabilities of market-facing content. Sales no longer needs to search for the best deck through hundreds of e-mail threads. A user can then assemble a custom deck for the opportunity. The real coolness is in the tracking of the sent content to the prospect. Sales can generate a custom e-mail through Salesforce.com to include a link to the newly created custom content. Tracking based in the e-mail and link will tell Sales, if the email and link have been opened. For Sales, this is pure gold.

Additionally there is a Genius feature that can best be described as iTunes Genius for Salesforce.com. It allows Sales to find experts within the company who have closed similar deals through matching criteria. Deal size, product or owner you name it. To work well, Sales must be disciplined which is difficult to at best. It will be interesting to see what customers Salesforce.com offers as “Super Geniuses”.

There has been a lot of press about this event being in Microsoft and Amazon’s backyard. This tour did not start and will not end in Seattle. Seattle was chosen for effect, no doubt. Salesforce.com means to be the enterprise cloud. Period. If I am right, hire me. If I am wrong, then I will be down to one reader — which will still not be my wife.

Happy Monday.