Saturday, October 22, 2011

So is Steve Jobs the Godfather of SaaS?

My son turned three in August. For over half of his young life he has been an avid user of the iPhone. And I mean avid

That doesn't mean he's been managing 'contacts' and making calls (on purpose;). But, he does navigate past what's of no interest to him and to what is - using the menus to access his favoured YouTube videos and play his various games etc. 

What I discovered, from speaking to the parents of his peers is that he is far from alone! A poignant quote relayed by JP Rangaswami, on his Confused of Calcutta blog, from a mid-eighties interview with Steve Jobs - "Older people sit down and ask, 'What is it?', but the boy (that SJ mentions in the article) asked 'What can I do with it?'" Poignant and probably why, two decades later, the omnipresent Apple products are so simple a 2 year-old can use them.

The true 'democratisation of software'!

The sad news of Steve Jobs recent passing has led to an insane amount of tributes, epitaphs and bios. A few of these have an understandably, rosey tint. Nevertheless, for a guy who in plain business speak was a salesman (all be it a bloody good one) and to everyone else a mega-successful capitalist, to receive so much 'love' is absolutely incredible: unheard off and likely, never to be repeated.

I've scanned many of the bios and one of the many recurring themes was his emphasis on usability. Fundamental to all the Apple products that are now household names. The same focus on usability that underpins SaaS. Suffice to say it's usability - utter intuitiveness - that defines SaaS for me. Before SaaS I felt like many others - alienated. That's why for me this is the fundamental tenet of SaaS. Sorry, but cloud-based, accessed via a browser etc is just not enough. 

Also, in spite (or because) of the KashFlow office (then) being run entirely on Windows/BlackBerry at the time, we were instantly taken by the synergy in usability of the iPhone Operating System when we first saw it. It was a natural step to marry utterly intuitive online accounting with the utterly intuitive operating system. A commercial success it was too. KashFlow is far from alone in this regard. 

However, I may have been alone in not putting 2 and 2 together and realising the influence of Steve Jobs on SaaS and its respective masterminds.

Usability as a tech business strategy
It seems obvious now that Steve Jobs' adherence to the needs of the consumer (i.e. all being able to use it) driving the development of these iconic products has also strongly influenced a generation of designers and developers, entrepreneurs and online services. Just as profound will be the pervasive influence, akin to how the Beatles continue to influence contemporary music almost fifty years later.

Does this make Steve Jobs the Godfather of SaaS? The SaaSfather even? Probably not. Though he obviously played an influential role like many others. 

Of course some day (relatively soon) we won't even mention it if services/products are accessed online. This will only be discussed when a service/product isn't delivered so. Installed/desktop/offline will not be the norm and therefore highlighted. Likewise all products will just work and be piss-easy to use. Now that's a legacy!

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