With SaaS, Microsoft Sweetens Its Azure Offering

Microsoft this week rolled out its CampaignReady suite of services, which is anchored by the Windows Azure-hosted TownHall. Designed for political campaigns, the suite works by letting candidates connect with constituents via TownHall, while Microsoft’s online collaboration and advertising tools help campaign workers communicate with each other and spread their messages. Especially for local or regional campaigns without the resources to build the specialized tools President Obama’s utilized, Microsoft’s pitch — a prepackaged solution that can be set up, torn down and paid for on demand — should be appealing. But Microsoft’s SaaS-plus-PaaS business model has legs beyond politics, and beyond Redmond.

As I describe in my column this week at GigaOM Pro, the combination of cloud services designed for and hosted on cloud platforms seems like a surefire strategy to secure PaaS (or even IaaS) adoption. By creating targeted applications designed specifically for use on their platforms, cloud providers can increase the likelihood of bringing customers into the fold (and can increase their profit margins) by letting applications help sell the platform instead of relying on the platform itself.

The possibilities are perhaps best exemplified by the number of Salesforce.com customers using its flagship CRM offering, which sits atop its Force.com platform — more than 72,000, according to the company. Presumably, it was positive experiences with the SaaS application that inspired 200,000-plus developers to build more than 135,000 custom applications that run on Force.com. It’s possible that Force.com could have attracted an equally large base as a standalone offering not intrinsically connected with Salesforce.com’s SaaS business, but unlikely.

The issue for most cloud providers is figuring out how to develop an application strategy to complement their infrastructural competencies. Microsoft, on the other hand, brought its decades of software experience with it when it launched Windows Azure. It developed its Pinpoint marketplace of third-party applications ready to run on the platform, it partnered with business-friendly ISVs like Intuit, and now it’s gotten into the SaaS act itself with TownHall. Azure has garnered its fair share of praise, and if Microsoft continues down the SaaS path, Azure could garner more than its fair share of customers and dollars. Read the full post here.

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Image courtesy of Janet Wall via PhotoExpress

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