Xero boss suggests rival’s product is 'fake'

Xero boss Rod Drury has taken issue with NBR and NZ Herald stories describing  Accomplish CashManager Online as a SaaS (software as a service) product, and Accomplish's claim on its website that it the newly-launched product is “accessible from any PC with an internet connection - meaning you can work anywhere, anytime”.

Accomplished launched an online version of its accounting software product last Thursday (read Accomplish takes on Xero).

In an email to NBR, titled “CashManager Online - is it a fake?”, Mr Drury says:

“When you sign up [to CashManager], you’re asked what type of operating system and printer you have – it is a ‘must complete’ field. "

From this, and other elements of CashManager’s terms and conditions, Mr Drury says it’s obvious that the programme is using a terminal server environment, rather than a web browser. Thus its need to know specific details about your PC, such as your OS, because it needs to install files on the specific computer you’re using.

“I think they are actually using an ASP model, where they are hosting their existing app in terminal services “

The application service provider (ASP) model had a brief moment in the sun during the dot.com boom and in the year 2000 Telecom, Microsoft and EDS formed a short-lived joint venture to promote products based around the technology.

“If this is true [Accomplish is using ASP], then I believe it makes their claims of accessibility anywhere, anytime inaccurate," continues Mr Drury.

“You’d need to download and install remote desktop software, which isn’t possible in internet cafés or locked down PC environments.”

While there’s no dictionary definition of software-as-service (SaaS), Mr Drury associates it with a program that runs in a web browser, with a customer able to access it - and all their data - from any internet device, anywhere, that runs a browser.

NBR believes most in the industry, and most users, would share a similar view, but in point of fact Wikipedia, the closest we have to any adjudicator on the subject, allows for both browser-based and ASP models under its definition of SaaS.

Accomplish general manager Grant Hewson has been up-front that CashManager Online does not run in a web browser, and makes no apology.

“We are not, and never have been, particularly concerned with the finer points of definition. Our customers do not care about which three or four- letter acronym best describes our product and service. It’s results they care about.”

Mr Hewson says CashManager Online does use, and require, remote desktop protocol (RDP) software.

This can be carried around on a USB stick if a user wants to install it on a different PC.

Most internet cafes would not allow you to install any software, but Accomplish does not recommend anybody use its product in that environment anyway.

Mr Hewson also reiterated what he has identified as the advantages of his product over Xero, all of which are borne from it utilising terminal services rather than a browser-based model.

That is, the online (or terminal services) version of the software looks the same as the offline version; files can be seamlessly transferred between the two versions; and users can choose to back-up and restore from multiple points in the past.

“It seems to me that instead of being concerned with splitting hairs and academic definitions (over the growing number of descriptions being used including cloud computing, SaaS, ASP, browser-based, online, etc) Xero would be better off spending their time meeting us in the market place,” says Mr Hewson.

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17 Comments & Questions

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Im founder and CEO of KashFlow - the UK leader in SaaS accounting.

Rod Drury is spot on.

Whatever Wikipedia says, delivering an application via RDP or other Terminal clients is *not* SaaS.

There's a simple test for Saas - The Touring Test. See http://blog.kashflow.com/2009/05/01/saas-the-touring-test/

Accomplish billing their product as SaaS shows they either totally misnderstand the concept or their trying to pull the wool over customers eyes.

It's not helpful and adds to the confusion amongst SMEs about cloud computing. I can understad Rods concern as he and Xero have done a lot to build the awareness and credibility of the SaaS model.

Misleading promotions and PR like this cause damage to the work they're doing.

I'm sure Rod Drury would love to meet Mr Hewson in the market place, but they're in different markets. One is in the SaaS market place, one isn't.

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Hi Duane,
Re your comment "Accomplish billing their product ... eyes".
Just to clarify, we "bill" our product as being available on line. We are happy to leave it to the experts to agree the best 3 or 4 letter acronym that describes the technical delivery.

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I'm a SaaS commentator who also specialises in independent analysis of SaaS accounting products. While being against dogma when it comes to definition of these things, the fact is that a product is not SaaS unless it is available to any user using any operating system and any currently issued browser. I support both Rod and Duane's comments...

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Hi Duane, nice to see you on a New Zealand site. You do get around.

It's great the "UK leader" is paying close attention to these issues.

By the way, how do you define leader? Surely not on customer count or revenue ;)

Cheers

Rod

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I mean who cares! if it works lets not get into a technical fight would be my argument

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kashflow, does your apps work in the NZ environment? If I have a business office in the UK or Europe, I would love to have one that works in both countries. I also believe competition in the SaaS enivronment here in NZ encourages innovation

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NBR got their article wrong, I wouldn't even say Accomplish is a fake [NBR didn't either - CK], as the software structure does not even resemble a SaaS product.

KashFlow is almost as spectacular as Xero, Duane Jackson knows what he is talking about! (even if he has no taste in color schemes ;) )

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This sounds like a bit of a technical argument to me. As a Chartered Accountant with a large number of clients using CashManager, having an on line option with the same look, feel and functionality is terrific news. Thanks Accomplish for your ongoing commitment to what is a great product.

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@rod The internet is global! I didn't need to catch a plane to get to a NZ site :) Ofcourse I keep an eye on you guys, it'd be silly not to, so this came up on my Google alerts.

Customer count, revenue... whichever. I'll go with profit, functionality and winning independent user surveys :p

@Grant, thanks for the clarification. Let's all blame NBR.

@KC - we have customers in .nz and .au, so it does work there. We don't actively promote it much outside of the UK, but we might open a NZ office just to annoy Rod. Why not be patriotic and use Xero yourself?

@Brian - you leave my colour schemes alone!

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Yes, from a technology perspective those of us who work with SaaS exponents and aspirants know Rod is right, but is that really the issue?

As Peter says from his beanie viewpoint (I am one in my spare time so I can say that!), his clients just want it to work. After all we sometimes forget that the concept of software as a service is to pay for the use of it as a service like a utility, regardless of technical constructs.

So while we may extol the virtues of multi-tenancy models versus multi-instance and scale-out versus scale-up options which are really important to us in delivering the service cost effectively, real people just want it to work, and pay for it each month - even if it is "just" RDP.

Ultimately it is the business benefit, not the technology that really matters.

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Rod is right.

We produce a SaaS Risk Management application. It runs in any browser.

Calling an RDP delivered, or ASP, product SaaS is disingenuous at best.

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SaaS could more correctly describe the billing model rather than the technical delivery platform. To criticise Accomplish in this way is childish on the part of Xero.

These acronymns owe more to the marketing departments of software vendors than any fine technological distinction.

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The post by Anonymous (09:56 am on June 23, 2009) "whats the fuss
I mean who cares! if it works lets not get into a technical fight would be my argument"

This is not a technical fight but about can the service be used anywhere around the world on any computer without installing any software. A comparison could be made between using Gmail or Outlook Express FROM A USERS VIEW POINT. With Gmail I just need to know id and password anywhere in the world. With Outlook Express I need the software as well. Yes sure the terminal server environment is possibly easier to install than Outlook Express but the point is you still need to do it.

All this becomes largely irrelevant if you always only use the software from one computer.

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...... there will be many Xero type applications in the market soon, so customer tally will show the sucess of SAAS........

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I struggle to understand the benefit of SAAS. In reality how many business owners will run their business totally reliant on SAAS services?
Sure you can use the plethora of Google apps for storage of documents, spreadsheets along with emails, but is this realistic?
Ultimately you are completely reliant on access to the internet. The question is, how often does the business owner walk into an internet café to run their business?
The reality is the business owner will have a notebook, have installed apps where appropriate, and access the internet wirelessly when required.

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Im a owner of a SME and i use Xero solely. Easy as, fixed price. Use from my blackberry, or a laptop, even a friends office from time to time.
And i guess that is the issue at question.

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I have used both accounting systems and have found Xero to be far superior with the added benifits of being easier to use and access. Thank you for finally making accounting easy
Happy Customer

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