The AppExchange is undoubtedly a significant portion of what makes salesforce.com unique. Pre-integrated solutions dramatically reduce the cost to the customer to extend the capabilities of Salesforce and the fact that it has already gone through growing pains means it will take other providers years to mimic its capability and impact.
~Narinder Singh, co-founder and CSO, Appirio
Nine Years ago I wrote The New Garage. It was a thought piece that tried to peer into the future of Software as a Service (SaaS) and make some predictions from a business and economics perspective. Salesforce had recently started promoting its platform in the making (then called S-Force) and encouraging third parties to develop applications that complemented and extended the basic Salesforce CRM solution so there was reason to speculate about the impact this new approach would have.
But also, the history of business and industry is a long story of better, faster and cheaper and at that moment all three were all in the driver’s seat. Back office software had already demonstrated many business process improvements leveraging automation and the Internet, and I thought it was time to turn some of these techniques on software. SaaS was a good start but it had further to go, I thought.
Early impacts lead to tipping point
I saw S-Force as a tool and an economic system that could revolutionize software, making it possible to create and deploy it in a just in time fashion. At that time you almost had to be nuts to think that. After all, even after the initial success of SaaS, software was still something you installed and slaved over for a long time before you got it right, not something you could just plug in like an appliance. And integration? Don’t ask! What was I thinking?
“We’re at a tipping point,” that’s what I was thinking.
The cold, hard truth of the matter was that you couldn’t expect to sell software subscriptions for a few bucks a month and encumber yourself with all the overhead of a traditional software company because you’d go broke. Something had to give. Either software would forever be something you sculpted from a block of marble or you had to figure out how to stamp out perfect copies that plugged in and just ran — no excuses.
My bet was that we could do the stamping but it wasn’t based on any hard economic data. It was based only the conviction that commoditization would have to continue and that something like what’s now the AppExchange would be the result. In truth, there were predecessors to the AppExchange. Steve Jobs opened an online store at NeXT in 1997 and six years later in 2003 Apple set iTunes in motion and today you can buy tens of thousands of apps at the AppStore for all your Apple devices.
All in a name
It’s hardly remembered today but the AppStore (name and domain) were originally Salesforce properties and that CEO, Marc Benioff, gave them to Apple. According to a 2008 Benioff interview with Bloomberg, Jobs had met with Benioff and his team in 2003 to offer advice on the Salesforce online store and the gift was a gesture of gratitude by Benioff to Jobs.
A store for enterprises
But those were consumer sites; there had never been an online application store for enterprise grade software until salesforce.com launched the AppExchange in January 2006. This year marks the seventh anniversary for AppExchange an odd anniversary to celebrate perhaps, but a good chance to look at the AppExchange to see how well it is living up to the original vision. Here are some of my observations.
- The partners have built a long list of useful solutions including HR systems, field service, accounting systems, sales tools and marketing automation products. These are systems that enrich the Salesforce experience but at the same time represent application areas where Salesforce has decided not to concentrate its resources. Where Salesforce has stepped aside, the partners have stepped in.
- The AppExchange created the opportunity for a very long tail of credible business solutions. In the more than 1,700 applications you can find on the AppExchange, there is a host of small applications that just make life easier for the Salesforce customer; some are strategic and many are exceptional. They are applications that integrate with other applications, distribute incredibly fine-grained information and automate processes in unlikely ways that just happen to work well for populations of users who need those exact solutions.
- The AppExchange is a good place to do business for companies of any size, especially for SMB’s. Many AppExchange vendors tell me that they make their living building and servicing their apps to the point that the permutations of Salesforce CRM with partner applications is, if not infinite, then at least very large (roughly 1700! or 1700 factorial). I had predicted this in The New Garage but I had envisioned problems with revenue splits and single sign-on. Both challenges have been dealt with.
- Perhaps most importantly, enterprises go to the AppExchange to find and buy solutions. One of the constant refrains I hear from AppExchange CEOs is that enterprise buyers find them on the AppExchange and buy solutions through it.
So here we are after seven years and the AppExchange is by all measures a big success. This blog is the first in a short series of posts that report on the AppExchange’s growth and the success of some of its many partners from small boutiques to large businesses. This series pays particular attention to ten AppExchange partners that distinguished themselves last year including in no particular order: TaskRay, TOA Technologies, Contactually, The TAS Group, Tango Card, Zapier, Apttus, KnowWho, nCino and KXEN.
Well, this is fun. You might recall I wrote a short piece on how difficult it is to upgrade Apple’s operating system to the newest release, Mountain Lion. I ran into trouble and quit after I’d discovered other people with issues. I wrote a post, “First Mammal to Lay an Egg: Mountain Lion by Apple.” I love Apple products but took issue with this upgrade.
It seems that Apple has not produced an installation disk for Mountain Lion. You can buy the upgrade on line and download it. Unfortunately, it’s a big download and it takes time. Worse, some people reported that the download quit and had to be restarted and that there were other issues like the speed of their particular internet connection, that affected total time to do the download and upgrade.
So, the post drew some comment, which is not unusual but what is interesting is the differing customer orientation philosophies expressed by me and my reader. I share the exchange with you below because 1) it’s public and 2) it neatly summarizes a lot that we’ve been debating in CRM circles for many years. FYI, the debate is happening at the Enterprise Irregulars site where the piece was cross posted. You can also read the post at that link and you should and also pay attention to the references I included.
What do you think? Here it is in full (so far).
First response (to the post)
“so, shipping a CD or DVD would be faster? The download happens in the background and doesn’t interrupt whatever you’re doing at the moment. It recovers from disconnects and failures gracefully. This is such a non-issue to any normal mortal. Not to mention downloading is more green, less wasted plastic and paper and shipping charges.
the download has issues as the referenced materials show. Also, I don’t have the time to babysit the process. Many people are having problems with this approach. It might have green and other benefits but it should not be the only way to a solution. Normal mortal?
I don’t know, more people upgraded to mountain lion, on a percentage basis, than people who upgrade windows in any similar timeframe. Must work for most people. Sorry it didn’t float your boat. But I think the analysis on this one is pretty poor.
You have no concept of the individual user and you sound like you are blaming the customer, not a great idea. This is not about how most people fare, the company has a responsibility to all of its customers and in the examples I found, it failed them.
Denis, I am the individual user. And There are 20 mac users in this office (and a few windows users as well) who all updated with nary a complaint. We don’t have a single “IT” employee to help them do installs.
I believe the data you found does not paint the picture of “most people” but of a few people from a forum. Check the status on mountain lion downloads and you have your # of successful downloads… far outnumbering the number of problem downloads. And of course Apple has a responsibility to those customers – and has better customer service than anyone will get if they’re upgrading Linux or Windows, from their respective hardware providers, I might add. I’d say you need some perspective, sir.
That’s right, discount my findings. You still don’t get it. It’s not the number of successes or failures that count but the way the customer is treated. For Apple to say take it or leave it, given the various skill levels of users and the variety of download speeds they have, is insensitive to the customer. I really don’t care how many were successful, I care about how the company treats those least able to do the job and the policy Apple put in place is insufficient to give people an alternative. THAT is the ONLY perspective you need if you are in a customer service business. You don’t get to declare victory and abandon your customers who can’t keep up.
I’ll be happy to provide more as it becomes available. I just love this internet thingie.
October 2, 2012
But wait, there’s more.
Denis, you really don’t get it. Maybe you missed this news last year: http://lifehacker.com/5823096/how-to-burn-your-own-lion-install-dvd-or-flash-drive In other words, Mountain Lion is the second release to not come on a DVD. Not the first. Apple customers are perfectly competent to install it. It works just as well as any other OS update for Mac or Windows (except that it is much bigger than the average update). Not to mention, many macs no longer ship with a DVD drive (obsolete technology for many)…
And the Apple store turns out to be a fine place to get help for those needing reference in the customer service business. Apple didn’t abandon their customers at all. They still have internet connections, no? It just seems like you’re not very informed about the Apple ecosystem at all. (and your other cross-linked blog post was pretty humorous. recapping the “debate” between you and me on another site? ) (and fwiw, i’m not blaming the customer, i’m blaming you for this terrible bit of research and writeup).
BTW, don’t know if you noticed… but iTunes downloads don’t come on DVD either… neither do app updates for your iPhone… (heck you can even get app updates via the Mac Appstore as well… ) This internet thing is pretty cool.
This reminds me of the old joke about the poet, the engineer and the economist stranded on a desert island and down to their last and only can of beans. They decide to eat it but don’t have a can opener so they begin a feverish discussion about how to open the can without the right tool.
The poet speaks first. “Let’s get a rock and bash the can until it opens!” He says. The others consider it but disagree. It will damage the can to the point where it’s caved in and they won’t be able to get the contents out.
“I know!” says the engineer, “We’ll heat the can until it bursts and we’ll collect the beans when they fall.” He goes off to calculate the scatter pattern and build a fire. The others demur, won’t that lose a lot of beans? Won’t it get sand in them?
Finally, in desperation, the economist speaks. “Looks, assume you have a can opener…” he says and the other two walk away.
The economist is the furthest from an answer because he assumes his conclusion. Actually he assumes the conclusion as part of the solution. You can do this in economics and even in blogging but when you get to the real world, you have to realize that your assumptions have to be applicable to a concrete solution.
I am afraid this is what Elvis has done. In suggesting that you can make an installation disk or thumb drive, he glosses over the fact that you need to do the download first. So this isn’t much of a solution.
True enough, the Apple Store is a fountain of information and first class assistance, if you live near one. That might not be the case if you live in Vermont or Idaho. Also, curiously, why would Apple want to clog up its stores with less than happy customers trying to get twenty bucks worth of operating system when the help should be attending to people who want to buy iPhones and MacBooks?
You see, all the permutations and assumptions quickly bring us back to the can of beans and the lack of a proper tool. The trio marooned on the island probably ate everything else they had, things that could easily be opened and consumed without tools, saving the can of beans for last because it was the hardest thing to open. It’s admittedly an outlier situation. That’s the situation that Apple is in and that Elvis refuses to acknowledge. But Apple can’t do that, it enters the marketplace offering to sell a product and it has an obligation to make the offering fit for a purpose, in this case installation and use of the OS.
Elvis likes to talk about how many other successful downloads and installs have occurred for Mountain Lion but that’s like saying our trio on the island ate yesterday or last week. It doesn’t matter.
Elvis distorts the discussion to his own ends but this was never about how many other releases didn’t come with a DVD. They were smaller and could easily be done that way, or perhaps the current download really has the problems that some people have reported. Why would they make this up? Other notes:
“Apple customers are perfectly competent to install it.”
I beg to differ. My 80 year old mother in law is a ninja user but doesn’t have a clue about downloads.
“Not to mention, many macs no longer ship with a DVD drive (obsolete technology for many)…”
This isn’t about that. It’s about going to market with a one size fits all solution for a problem with a great deal of variability. The solution doesn’t address all contingencies as I have noted. The MacBook Air that I am writing on doesn’t come with a superdrive but I bought one for just this kind of exigency. See?
Elvis, I think we both like our Apple gear a lot and most of the time it’s excellent. I am a fan. As a pure operational issue though, going to market with this single approach to an upgrade this big is foolish of Apple and I am calling bullpucky on it. The difference between you and me is that I can see the failing and a better way to get to the goal and I am not afraid to point it out. You are so dogmatic and wedded to the mistaken belief that Apple is perfect that you can’t see the shortcoming and so attack the messenger.
By the Way, my writing is published on lots of sites, sometimes without my knowledge or approval. I have a relationship with the Enterprise Irregulars to cross post.
Are you kidding me? Apple has outsourced operating system product delivery to third parties of dubious expertise, though with good intentions, I am sure. Apple recently released Mountain Lion the latest version of their operating system for the Macintosh family. That’s the good news. I tried installing it and didn’t like what I found out. Consider this:
- They don’t sell a disk of any kind that you can install in a conventional manner; you have to download the OS install file from the App Store and do the installation yourself.
- It takes FOREVER to do the download. People are saying the download takes hours. Seriously?!
- People are complaining about their computers’ performance afterward.
I understand the value of SaaS and of downloading things from the Web and I endorse the idea (read my blog), but this is one of those things best not done over the Web. The net has become a forest of solutions for slow downloads. There are actually do-it-yourself instructions from third parties describing the process of making your own DVD or flash drive for easier installation. Again, are you kidding me? I gotta tell you, I did not sign up for this! If you, Apple, want me to use your stuff, you need to make a reasonable effort to sell and deliver it to me. As a vendor, that’s your responsibility. A nice DVD would be a good place to start. This nonsense is unbelievable and unacceptable.
I am indebted to my friends at the Enterprise Irregulars, for the links in this piece. The IE’s, if you didn’t know, are a rag tag group of certified smarties who know all kinds of stuff about the greater tech industry and I am flattered that they let me hang out with them.
The aftermath of the verdict from the patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung initially generated more heat than light. But the last few days have made up for the light that failed to emanate from the weekend’s id fest and Armageddon prediction Internet confab.
Reuters is running an interesting story about Apple CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page of Google keeping the hotline open — you really need to be a child of the 1960’s to fully appreciate this metaphor. Suffice it to say that it is the origin of the little red phone. But also, there was this really interesting post at ZDNet by Jason Perlow about Samsung and Google’s collective need for a new dress.
I particularly recommend Perlow’s article because, while the idea of product dress might seem weird to some people — especially those who take issue with the look and feel aspects of the Apple suit — it might interest you to know that product dress is a legal term.
Without giving away Perlow’s point, let’s just make the observation that the classic Coke Bottle, which has nothing to do with how the stuff tastes, is part of Coke’s dress and its IP, as much as its secret recipe. Only Coke has Coke Bottles, for a good reason. So go read that article.
My point here, other than giving a shout out to the IE’s and trying to enlighten others, is that Apple might have, at least momentarily, hit on the only look and feel for mobile devices that will ever be widely accepted. Tapping, swiping, pinching — things that come natural not only to the members of our Genus but also our Family and, who knows, maybe even our Order — might be so hardwired into our beings that coming up with an alternative might be a waste of time. Holy $%^& Batman that might mean that Apple could end up owning the mobile UI and someday soon be in a position to make a few pennies on every Samsung or HTC device running Andriod for ever.
Believe it or not, such an outcome would not be unique in the annals of business or manufacturing. It might have something to do with cross licensing (I know, but don’t confuse it with dressing mentioned above). That’s when more than one company asserts ownership rights to an invention that each came up with the old fashioned way (you know, R&D?). But rather than fighting about it for years, the two (or more) companies come to terms, some money and possibly other patents are traded and then it’s back to business.
The best example of this is the car industry. Car radios, V-8 engines, automatic transmissions, how heating and air conditioning systems work, how the controls are set up and lots more, all have patents and if all cars look more or less alike in some basic features and functions, it might be because their makers went to the same patent swap meet. Yes, patents expire so don’t go looking to fund the fifth generation grand kids college even if you have lot of patents.
So this brings us back to Larry and Tim and the hotline. May we be informal for a moment and simply refer to each other using first names like they do in the music biz (Elvis, John, Paul, George, and especially Ringo; but also Bono, Sting, Eric and many others)? So, Larry bought Motorola (early car radio patents, BTW) at least in part for its stable of patents to ward off just the kind of suit that Tim’s company is making famous in the mobile industry (Tim should file a patent! hahaha!). And Larry, Tim and their minions are keeping the lines of communication open as they say.
What are the odds that the verdict put the discussions into high gear and that there’s an informal-formal patent swap meet happening out in the Valley between these principals? Nothing would surprise me but I think that if both sides remain reasonable and use their inside voices and big words, that there will be an announcement in the not too distant future that they’ve struck a deal.
If so, the deal would create the stack of the decade. Just as Wintel described a stack of Windows OS and Intel chips that made the personal computer; or as LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP for cloud application servers, some standard that combines Mobile/Google/Android/Motorola/Apple might emerge from all this chaos for mobile devices.
Let’s see, MOGAM? MOGA? GAAMMO? AGAMO? AAM? AA? Who knows, naming might be the stickiest part of the negotiations that aren’t happening on the hot line at the moment.
The headline in the New York Times brought what I had thought would be unambiguous good news or at the very least non-news to most people. A San Jose jury had found in favor of Apple in a patent infringement case against Samsung and awarded Apple one billion dollars in compensation. The suit involved infringement on patents for the iPhone and iPad.
But of course there was diverse opinion over the verdict. Much of the commentary in the Times was of this variety:
“This is an overreach of the patent law. If the first carmaker (Daimler) would have patented this new type of vehicle, there might never have been an American (sic) car industry. Apple ends up looking bad in the end, since it’s obvious that they are trying to stifle a competitor that is starting to get better at doing something Apple did first.
But I disagree. In that vein, did you know that the Wright Brothers patented the airplane? It’s U.S. patent No. 821,393 in case you are curious. You can look it up. That patent didn’t seem to slow down the evolution of the aviation industry.
I don’t usually comment on stuff like this but I feel compelled to because what passes for logic in this case is terrible. Much of the commentary is a misguided attempt the re-examine the patent process. The commentators disagree about whether this or that feature should be patented or patentable but that train left Dodge a long time before trial. They also engage in retrograde thinking, by essentially saying that the patent is obvious today so why was it needed in the first place? But the ideas that go into patents are rarely obvious at the time of invention and patents are awarded to protect an innovation by giving its authors time to profit from their invention. Without patents would we still bother to invest billions in R&D not to mention the time and effort to invent things?
The patents were awarded fair and square regardless of what anyone thinks now. The only question before the court was whether or not Samsung illegally copied a feature or function for which Apple had won a patent. The answer was a resounding yes. Yes, Samsung deliberately and knowingly broke the law by using someone else’s property without paying for it.
The issue was never about how deserving Apple or anyone else is or was of receiving a patent. It wasn’t even about Apple using its great wealth to prosecute an even wealthier corporation.
When did we as a people become so illogical?