Here's a hint: who was using the slogan "The Network is the Computer" 10 years ago? And who was the first company to deliver a RIA technology?
So why have they been MIA in the PaaS goldrush?
Let's think about this another way. What database are people most likely to run on their slice -o'Linux-in-the-cloud? mySQL perhaps? Which was just bought by...? The Register has an article about a possible JavaOne announcement about how this situation might change (with a leaked slide presentation! Fell off the back of an ftp packet, I guess..)
(The weird thing is is that the presentation talks only about PostgreSQL. An old file? Or a different corporate camp? Didn't get the memo maybe?)
Timothy O'Brien speculates that the transition to cloud-based computing is happening sooner than expected. He's talking about the new integration between Salesforce.com (which is apparently the poster child for SaaS) and Google Apps (the poster child for desktop replacement by the Web). And he generalizes this to include EC2, SimpleDB, and the "twenty or thirty other companies that are going to join the industry".
He also warns here that this transition could transform the model for software development in ways uncomfortable for IT professionals.
He could be right. Cloud computing does seem to be poised to finally provide the right platform to suck the juice out of corporate data centres. The idea of virtual everything certainly has an appeal (especially to someone like me who is basically a software guy).
But questions occur... Salesforce and Google seem like a perfect match - but what about the other companies that want a piece of this action? Does it matter that you will have to commit everything to a given cloud platform? And what happens if that platform goes away? The more advantage you take of the cloud, the bigger the pain when it disappears. And what about apps which are a bit more specific than CRM (which in my naive view seems like just a fancy Contacts list - and hence an obvious and easy thing to integrate with an office suite).
Tim would probably call these kinds of questions "self-interested observations from one with the most to lose". He mentions a Salesforce meeting where business types applaud a sign showing "Software" with a big red slash through it... Well, maybe. Last I noticed no-one has quite managed to automate generating code from requirements documents (let alone automating the generation of implementable requirments documents out of people's heads 8^). So I would say it's more like "different software" than "no software".
One thing's for sure.. there's going to be some gigantic platform turf wars going on up there in the stratosphere.
(One big disappointment - it sounds like the Salesforce platform is based on their proprietary Apex language. Ugh. Just what the world needs - one more language to debate over. At least Google App Engine picked a real language for their launch!)
(C'mon, admit it - you've always wanted to use that as the title of a blog post too...)
Paul's epiphany seems like the equivalent of Ontogeny recapitulating Phylogeny in the evolution of a programmer. "Hey, C has arrays! Hey, C arrays are really just syntactic sugar for pointer dereferencing! Hey, I can index to anywhere in memory really easily! Hey, I can store anywh...."
SEGFAULT - CORE DUMPED
"Hey, there's this new language called Java! And it has arrays too! Hey, if I index past the end of an array I get a nice error message telling me exactly where in my code the problem occurred! Hey, I think I can knock off work early and go to the pub!"