I seem to be having a lot of business lunches these days, which is a good thing. I met with Timothy Griffin, Founder, President and CEO of Userful at a Korean BBQ place on the west side of Calgary downtown last week. Mmmmm… Korean BBQ. My conversation was fascinating. Tim and his company have created what I believe to be a unique product… Daas: Desktop As A Service. Calgary based Userful develops a Linux shell that allows up to 10 workstations to be connected to a single desktop computer and charges a nominal monthly fee for the user “seat.” Founded in 2002, Userful has installed more than 30,000 seats of their software in places like schools, libraries, hotel lobbies and some small business verticals. They’ve just expanded their market to governments… Brazil has licensed 13,000 seats from Userful, realizing significant cost savings over traditional desktop solutions. However, some might ask, “Who wants 10 Linux workstations, even if they are ridiculously less expensive than buying 10 personal computers?”
The answer is Saas. As many critical business and government applications port to Saas applications that run in a browser, it’s irrelevant what operating system that it runs on. So, the effective cost saving on a 10 workstation system is ~9 times over the average cost of a personal computer system. A lot of critical business applications are available as Saas these days. Vertical Saas applications (such as Calgary’s Curve Dental) are big business ... and it's going to get bigger. Worldwide revenue for Saas is expected to reach about $5 billion in 2007 (21% increase over 2006), and is expected to grow to $11.5 billion in 2011, according to Gartner analysis. It’s not just vertical applications either. Traditional desktop software such as word processor and spreadsheets have alternatives, for example, Google has a full suite called “Google Docs.” Email (gmail, hotmail) is a very popular Saas application. In fact, many small business offices can run their whole operation on Saas. Need I mention that this is one of Microsoft's biggest fears? Other benefits that Userful delivers are lower ongoing IT maintenance through a single web portal, having all users access a preconfigured main page templates and much better security with no viruses. And, in this era of greener lifestyles, Userful helps the environment. In 2006 Userful users saved over 13,500 tons of CO2 emissions over what would have been generated with stand-alone PCs... the equivalent of taking 2,300 cars off the road. Clearly, the folks at Userful have a lot of opportunity in front of them.