The Internet has really changed the way people perceive the world and has drastically changed the way people think about computers and software in general. Whereas just a decade and a half ago, you had very little choice when searching and selecting a software tool, nowadays you’ve got dozens, if not hundreds of competing products, each with their own advantages, disadvantages and strong selling points.
Delivery of the products has also changed a lot. While in the past, you had to go to stores, find and buy a CD with the program you needed (or even worse, wait for it to arrive because it’s out of stock), today you can download it online in mere seconds or at most a few hours (for really big files).
But as if that wasn’t enough, various forward thinking individuals and businesses thought up an even simpler (for the end user) process that would make even a 3 year old child or a 70 year old grand pa able to access and use any application: Software as a Service.
You’ve most definitely already used at least some of the most basic forms of this kind of software. Forums and online chat rooms are some of the oldest forms of Software as a Service. Google Wave, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter (especially Twitter) are some of the newest SaaS products on the market.
Basically, a Software as a Service is a program that could’ve easily been a desktop application, with the whole installation, configuration, restarts and activation things, but the developers chose to make it available online and be useable right away, with no hassle. The ever increasing Internet connection speeds have made this possible, and it really is the future.
The main idea of SaaS is to eliminate the need for downloads, installation, activation, various problems with incompatibilities and other issues that will undoubtedly appear on a desktop application. The need for manual updates is also gone, as developers need to simply update the software on their side, so they can do it much faster, as fast as the users can point out the bugs or write up their feature wish lists for the future.
Google went as far as to create a whole operating system that consists only of a browser, saying that it is the future. And we don’t doubt it – a browser is literally all you need nowadays on a portable device in order to do most of the things you could do on your desktop – listen to music, chat with your friends, make appointments, read your email, watch videos and do many other things.
What used to be installed on your computer is now accessible from any device in the world using the Internet, which makes things much easier (but also a bit less secure). Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook are replaced by Google Calendar, Docs and Gmail, video players (and long video download times) are gone in favor of Youtube and other streaming sites, even games are now “made for Facebook” instead of “for Windows”.
That is what SaaS basically is, and the phenomenon will certainly grow bigger in the future, especially when Internet connection speed and worldwide penetration will become greater and greater. Now is the time to get into this thing and develop online apps that can replace the old desktop ones (there are thousands of examples where this would be a good thing).