Who’s Like Pharma?

In the VC panel this morning there was a comparison of enterprise software to big pharma

“Among other things, the panel discussed whether the enterprise software business looks increasingly like big pharma. The idea is that it has become almost impossible to create sustainable companies that have to sell their wares into the CIO’s office”

MikeJoe saw another comparison, you be the judge:

“If you read between the lines of what the panelists are saying, they’re actually not talking about the software industry, but about their own industry, venture capital. That’s the business that resembles the pharmaceutical industry, as it’s marked by a few huge successes, with most investments ending up in failure”

I really don’t know how anyone could suggest enterprise software is like big pharma when 1) the cost of starting a company today is less than ever before, unlike pharma and 2) enteprise software doesn’t take 7-10 years to develop, unlike pharma and 3) distribution options for enterprise software are expanding, unlike pharma.

The problem that these investors were identifying is that it’s increasingly difficult to create a business on the model that SAP and Oracle have perfected, big license deals with recurring maintenance revenue. However, even those businesses are facing the inevitability that this model disappears and are actively changing their respective businesses to cope with that.

Software 2007

I was at Software 2007 today, and as usual it was wall-to-wall enterprise software people. Fellow Enterprise Irregulars Vinnie Mirchandani, Zoli Erdos, Dan Farber, Anshu Sharma, Chris Selland, and Sadagopan were in attendance, all will surely be covering the event in more detail than me, not because I’m uninterested but because I hardly made it out of the hallway given all the people I kept running into!

The conference session tracks were focused on the usual innovation topics like enteprise 2.0 (hosted by Jeff Clavier, I was on the second panel today in this track), but also on some interesting non-traditional topics like strategic M&A, aligning marketing and sales initiatives, and a variety of SaaS and channel workshops (e.g. "hybrid models: do they work?").

Quite honesetly, this is the most interesting conference agenda I have seen in quite a while and appropriately represents the maturity that enterprise software has. Technology and new product sessions are not what this industry needs right now, sales model workshops are what is needed.

I wasn’t originally planning on attending the conference tomorrow but based on the strength of the agenda alone I am planning on heading back. I really wish I had the opportunity to go to more of the panel sessions today as I’m sure I would have learned quite a lot.

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Important Decision Regarding Patents

The Supreme Court yesterday issued a ruling on a case that has broad implications for the technology industry. In KSR vs. Teleflex, the Court heard arguments about patents involving adjustable gas pedals in automobiles, hardly a high tech issue in itself.

However, the underlying arguments in the case went to a central tenet of patent law and struck down a test that lower courts had been using for years to determine the validity of patents called the "teaching, suggestion, and motivation (TSM)" approach.

In short, the Court struck down this test as too rigid and reversed lower court rulings that were in favor of the plaintiff. The Court ruled that incremental innovations that would be obvious even to those with average skills can not be patented.

In other words, the computer mouse is a legitimate invention subject to patent protections, a two button mouse is not…

Morrison & Foerster has a good writeup on the ruling.

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Patent Lawyers
US Patent Library
Supreme Court Raises Bar for Patents
Read more on Patents at Wikinvest

Microsoft Astoria

I’ve been reading up on Microsoft Astoria, which was talked about at Mix07 but seems to have been lost in the noise around the Silverlight announcement.

The goal of Microsoft Codename "Astoria" is to enable applications to expose data as a data service that can be consumed by web clients within corporate networks and across the internet. The data service is reachable over regular HTTP requests, and standard HTTP verbs such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE are used to perform operations against the service.

Am I right in suggesting that Microsoft is making it possible to do CRUD operations over HTTP disguised as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE? The data delivered as open formats, XML and JSON, would then be consumable by any application as a URI. Basically by saying they are enabling a relational data store in the cloud they are also saying that the cloud is itself, aka the web, is nothing more than another data storage device.

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Mailplane for Gmail

Mailplane is a very cool Mac OSX app for Gmail. So why does anyone need a dedicated application to serve as a client app for Gmail when you can use any mail client to access Gmail as a POP/SMTP server? The answer, and I’ve thought about it for a while now, is that Mailplane adds enough stuff to Gmail to make it more useful, while at the same time being more gmail-centric than a generic mail client application.

There is one glaring shortcoming to Mailplane at the moment, the lack of offline access. I am hoping that eventually the developer will add this but it doesn’t do offline now and that means I still run Mail.app in the background to grab a copy of all my email in the event I need it while offline.

The two features I like about this application above all others is the printing function and the ability to add a screenshot to any mail message with a simple toolbar icon. The iPhoto integration is nice, but I’ve never had much of an issue with the way it is in iPhoto. Attaching files to a new message couldn’t be easier, just drag the file over the application icon in the toolbar and a new message will be created with the attached file, and that is definitely a lot easier than how Gmail does it.

The Google Talk integration is nice, but I use Adium for IM so I’m covered. Integration with Keychain is welcome, but I do miss the ability to have multiple mail accounts in the same client app. Also, I can’t use Greasemonkey scripts to enhance the Gmail UI… bummer.

I am not convinced I would pay for Mailplane, although if it had offline access I would be much more inclined to, however I could see a potential for offering a branded version to support google@yourdomain users who want a company specific brand applied to Gmail for their captive users.

Lastly, integration of additional Google services, like Calendar and Notebook, into the Mailplane application would significantly enhance the appeal of the product in the market. Currently, Google’s strategy of loosely coupling application leaves a lot to be desired in terms of service integration.

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