For today’s software developer, there are many choices of technology platforms on which to build next-generation applications. Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, IBM, SAP, Google, Amazon Web Services, Apple and others are in a heated race to win the hearts of minds of ISVs – both those retrofitting legacy apps and those building ground up for the cloud. But, how does a developer make the best and most economical decisions around their go-to-market support requirements from their platform vendors, and are application marketplaces the silver bullet to cloud success?
All the software leaders have their own applications portals now, with a growing variety of apps. for both B2B and consumers. Although most smart developers are making their development choices based on the strength of the publisher’s toolset, the portability of the code and the availability of existing plugins, their decisions about how dependent to be on their platform vendor’s go-to-market support isn’t quite as clear-cut.
Much like the gaming marketplace has spawned a thriving set of on-line and retail channels, the cloud applications marketplace is expanding quickly. The dominant on-line marketplaces such as iTunes and Google promise access to millions of mobile consumers. But, for B2B apps, especially for the SMB market where a high degree of customization may not be necessary, the leaders are still unclear.
As the mobile applications leader, Apple’s launch of its B2B marketplace in July 2011 was an important step in its efforts to bring corporate functionality like volume licensing and version control to the on-line applications world. The jury is still out on how important this effort will be to Apple’s penetration of the enterprise space.
Shouldn’t the promise of the cloud — ease of access, affordable consumption and a breadth of highly specialized applications – extend to the developers also? No one cares what the applications are written in, and increasingly they expect to get the hottest apps on any device their employees use. Will we see a day soon where IT Mangers can go to a SaaS “Walmart” for a selection of collaboration, expense reporting, project management, accounting, SFA and other core business applications? And, where ISVs who spend the time and money to write their application on iOS, Android, Ruby on Rails or the Force.com platform, can have access to a centralized set of well profiled corporate users?
Even if this vision of a truly centralized marketplace for applications becomes a reality over the next 3-5 years (which is a bit of a stretch), how might that impact the emerging reseller market for cloud apps? Can regional SI’s and VARs who are beginning to do some light customization of cloud apps and white-label them through their own unique customer portals survive if an on-line Walmart emerges soon with blue-light specials on the hottest apps?
In our State of Partnering study for the last several years, ISVs continue to inch up the list as one of the most strategic partner segments for the global IT vendor community. However, they seem to be the most under-supported channel segment, especially in terms of quantifiable go-to-market support. Getting technical and architectural support, great prices on test and development licenses, yes. But, unless you’re a big, global horizontal or vertical ISV, getting much custom marketing support beyond the vendor’s partner portal (or now their apps. marketplace) can be near impossible. Which is why the aggregation of these emerging marketplaces becomes so important for the smaller ISV placing their bets on the cloud.
Will there be a Walmart of the on-line B2B applications world? And, how critical will that channel consolidation become for the average multi-platform ISV? I’d love to hear your prognostication.