The long tail of software

When I work on desktop transformation projects I am continually amazed by the number of applications that we find installed in an enterprise.  It’s not unusual to find several thousand in a medium sized company, most of them used by less than 10 people.  However as Rod Boothby points out this is the tip of the ice berg, because once we go beyond packaged applications and include the non trivial spreadsheets, macro enabled documents and databases we find an order of magnitude more.

Now Rod thinks that these ‘Office’ applications will be displaced by tools like blogs, wikis and Microsoft’s Excel services.  I partially agree I think these tools will just complement the traditional Office applications and extend their reach beyond the desktop and the network file server.  Here are some (mostly Microsoft)examples:

  1. Applications built by using custom searches, probably encoded in the URL, against Internet and intranet search engines.  Expect to see this particularly in situations where the search engines let you reach into databases and document metadata
  2. Applications built using the incredible versatility of SharePoint custom lists and workflow
  3. Applications built by combining InfoPath, Word, Excel XML documents with data selectively promoted from the XML into SharePoint lists
  4. Applications built processing RSS data from all manner of applications and then mashing it up with other data, or pulling it into Office or web based analysis tools
  5. Applications built using the next generation of web based 4GLs like DabbleDb and Coghead
  6. Composite applications built by integrating portal components, including some or the above, like Intalio’s, built from Dabble DB, FeedBurner, FeedDigest Flickr, Google Analytics, LinkedIn, Technorati, WordPress,Zoho Writer.

This is the true long tail of software,  traditional office applications enhanced and integrated with web office, collaboration and line of business applications.  However lets not forget the humble desktop application.  Its had a bad reputation in the past – largely because of DLL hell – but as new classes of applications appear that don’t need to be installed in the traditional sense but can just be streamed down to the PC, cached and executed I expect that desktop apps will get a new lease of life in the enterprise. 

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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