Joining the Platform Wars
Data and application integration software, middleware and development tools add to the cost of the software without necessarily providing many real measurable benefits to the customers unless they have the expertise in house to take advantage of them. Salesforce.coms stated goal for its AppExchange platform for building and sharing applications and software components is to serve as an Internet-based operating environment for applications that use the pre-built features and functions of its CRM system.The problem with these platforms is while they may bring business benefits and competitive advantages to third-party software developers to tie their fortunes to the market penetration of Salesforce.com, Siebel, SAP and Oracle, they are really a bid by each of these companies to enforce on the Internet the same closed, proprietary control that they exercise over their on-premise server software. Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow Technologies, which produces a competing on demand CRM software package, says these platform wars negate the original aims and concept of software as a service, which was to give customers quick, affordable and convenient access to basic customer management applications. Offering them an expensive and grandiose platform, Gianforte says, "is as if your mechanic handed you a 125-piece wrench set rather than actually fixing your car." "What if another mechanic then walked up to you with his tools and started arguing with the first guy about whose tools were better," he asks. Most on-demand customers have no interest in the size of the vendors software stack. They dont want to invest in it or even pay for the research and development that took to build it. They just want solutions to their business problems. The vendors are also asking their customers to buy into these platform wars with their license and subscription fees. But that also means they have a stake, whether they like it or not, in the outcome of the war. That is particularly problematic for Siebel customers because the long-term future of the Component Assembly is in doubt even as they roll it out this week. Oracle has said that Siebels CRM software will be the CRM component of its Fusion platform. So the question arises, does Oracle really need to market a platform within a platform? Customers place bets every day on whose technology works and will receive service and support for the life of license agreements. But they shouldnt be forced to bet on whose platform is going to prevail in these competitive wars when all they wanted was a CRM product to help organize their own sales efforts. John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
Read more here about Oracles proposed $5.85 billion buyout of Siebel Systems.