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Enterprise software & the long tail

Joe Kraus has a post that applies the now famous long tail argument to software. He admits that the argument applies to software like his own company’s JotSpot, and plugs it in. But if he is right, his argument applies to other products including JotSpot’s competitors.

It is easy to agree with the premises:

  • the vast majority of business applications require customization
  • most enterprise solutions focus on a few large semi-well-defined application areas because the economics don’t reward small (long tail) opportunity harvesting, and
  • there is opportunity here for software entrepreneurs.

Joe argues that a combination of Excel and email are being used to fill the long tail gap, but that they are inadequate. This may be true, but it is a bit of a leap to an implied conclusion that one piece of “blockbuster” software could better meet the needs of the long tail of business requirements in all their diversity.

This is not to say that there won’t be more blockbuster successes that help with long tail business needs — Excel, email, and web browsers are all examples of such a wild horizontal success — and Groove of one that didn’t catch fire (see Bill Trippe’s comment on the Microsoft acquisition), but will some combination of enterprise blog and wiki software be equally successful? Well… maybe. In any case, Joe’s post is thought provoking and his analogy might be richer than he, or any of his commenters to date, realize.

1 Comment


    The Long Tail

    OK, I’m slow sometimes. I finally got around to reading Chris Anderson’s article, “The Long Tail,” some fifteen months after it first appeared and 10 months after Frank Gilbane commented on its relevence to enterprise software. It had caught on…

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