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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.