Last week I gave a keynote address at the annual Salesforce.com user meeting, which has become a huge, multi-thousand-person affair at San Francisco's Moscone center. Salesforce was launching its new application marketplace, called AppExchange, which is modeled on the Long Tail theory.
I'd been speaking with CEO Marc Benioff and his staff during the development of the exchange and I was both enthusiastic about the idea and curious to see how well the theory would apply in enterprise software. The answer is: surprisingly well.
Joe Kraus of Jotspot was the first to really develop a Long Tail framework for software, which I wrote about here. As he pointed out, you can think of the many thousands of Excel templates that have been created over the years by individuals for their specific needs as small, targeted software applications running on a common platform. Although they probably didn't think of it this way, each of those accountants, project leaders and HR managers was acting as a software developer of sorts. But the "software" they developed was rarely used by anyone outside their company, and it was limited by the constraints of the platform--Excel--on which it ran.
The old commercial software model was, like so many others, largely
hit-driven. Software companies developed bloated one-size-fits-all
software applications for big markets, and then left the customizing of
that software to IT consultants or the users themselves. As Joe put it,
"the traditional focus has been on dozens of
markets of millions instead of millions of markets of dozens."
Now that's changing. Joe started the new model with Jotspot, which focuses on the "millions of markets of dozens" by using the Wiki approach to let individuals build custom apps easily. Salesforce's AppExchange
takes that one step further by creating a marketplace of such small,
niche applications (everything from market research to health care
management) that run on the hosted Salesforce platform. And others,
such as SAP, are preparing to launch similar aggregators of Long Tail
software based on their own platforms.
I covered all of this in my Salesforce speech, which is now online (both slides and audio) here. Check it out, if only for the nice job they did in prettying up my charts and graphics.