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Deja vu, Again!

My annual market review and analysis will be published next month as a No Jitter feature article, but I thought a sneak preview would be a nice holiday gift for the readers.Since I began this annual article more than 20 years ago in Business Communications Review I often worried that there would be little new to write about from year to year, but something always pops up (even if it is the same old thing presented in a new way). This past year saw the emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS) as one of the popular buzz words du jour. Just as CTI was rejuvenated by renaming it Unified Communications (UC), SaaS is the newest version of hosted services (which had much of its origin as Centrex services). Cisco jumped into SaaS with two feet by announcing Webex Connect, a UC-like SaaS offer, based on its Webex services (SaaS before the term become popular). Not to be outdone, Microsoft teamed up with Broadsoft to announce its own SaaS offer for hosted UC services a mere week after the Cisco announcement. Suddenly everyone is into SaaS. It's the wave of the future unless you consider it going back to the past.

During my days at AT&T (the original AT&T, not the current new AT&T or even the AT&T after the BOC divestiture), when computers were still protected in hermetically sealed-off clean rooms and personal computers had not yet entered the business environment, I was able to access a messaging and word processing service provided by Tymeshare, a computer service bureau, from any computer terminal (CRT terminal equipped with a keyboard and an attached dial-up modem) from anywhere at anytime (as long as an analog telephone was nearby).

Using today's terminology Tymeshare's service was a prehistoric SaaS offer. Although my access to the network was limited (300 bps - 2.4 kbps transmission rates) it nevertheless significantly increased my desktop productivity, because I was able to type, edit, and transmit documents on my own quickly and efficiently, bypassing the dreaded word processing pool that sometimes required several days to produce a final version of a written report. Service bureaus like Tymeshare were eventually done in by desktop personal computers, but in their time they offered white collar workers a better way to create and distribute work product, much in the way a service like Cisco's Webex does today.

SaaS is an enhanced version of something I used decade ago. To borrow a phrase from a song, "Everything old is new again." And it gives me something to write about every year for my annual market review and analysis.