SaaS platforms are becoming increasingly attractive to small and midmarket businesses, due to a wide selection of affordable, adaptable, business-relevant apps.
Writing for eCommerce Times, occasional Internet Evolution contributor Jeff Kaplan sees new app marketplaces making business software more readily accessible to SMBs. If Apple, Google, and Amazon are serving the market for consumer apps, these new players are in the B2B app game.
One example of a business-targeted app marketplace is the Staples App Center. The advantages of the approach are obvious. Staples curates a selection of apps from major vendors (Google and McAfee, for example), and makes them available via a single dashboard, with free trials and unified billing. It's a strategy which almost makes IT involvement redundant.
Behind storefronts like Staples are companies which offer the bricks and mortar for building app stores. Among these are AppDirect, which powers Staples, and SaaS Markets. SaaS Markets partners with app storefronts, supplying quality-assured apps, and helping to build and brand the online interface. It allows customers to make side-by-side comparison of apps.
AppDirect offers similar services, and has had success partnering not only with Staples, but with international enterprises like Bell, Deutsche Telekom, and Swisscom.
The app marketplace is a natural fit for hosting companies like the open cloud vendor Rackspace. Rackspace offers tailored cloud computing platforms, and it's a no-brainer to upgrade to one-stop cloud shopping by offering apps -- or "cloud tools" -- for purchase at the same website. After all, enterprises which sell eReaders also sell books.
It's no surprise that Rackspace partnered with AppDirect to launch this service.
Are there possible downsides to this trend? Sure. It could make for a narrow and conservative market in business apps, with mainstream products from household-name vendors constituting an obvious selling point for anyone launching an app store. Although AppDirect does solicit products direct from developers, it's possible to imagine the independent app entrepreneur being left out in the cold as centralized app marketplaces gain traction.
Also, as Gartner's Lydia Leong observed in the early days of such marketplaces, the selection of apps offered needs to be comprehensive enough that businesses can't do better just by searching Google and hoping. Well-curated products, together with excellent support, and ease of delivery and payment, are essential components of the successful app marketplace.
The positives, however, outweigh the negatives -- at least as far as the future of cloud computing for smaller organizations is concerned. Business app marketplaces will make life much simpler for any company that simply can't devote a tranche of IT hours to researching and testing suitable apps, let alone individually downloading, supporting, and paying for them.
This looks like the future of SaaS, below the enterprise level at least.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution