One of the fascinating things about business is how ecosystems are created around big technologies. Think of car manufacturers. One of the big reasons that there is fear regarding letting GM go bankrupt right now is the knock on effect–all the suppliers, big and small, that would not get paid while the bankruptcy judge was reorganizing the business. They wouldn’t be able to pay their employees, and that would affect the employees’ ability to buy goods and services from others in the area, which would cause other business to have issues, etc. The point I’m making above is not an argument in favor of bailing out the big auto companies, but rather a bemused look at how complex business ecosystems get.
Software is no different–every big company (HP, Sun, IBM, Microsoft) has multiple channels for getting its technology products out in the market. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) are crucial for platforms. Consultants, both those employed by the company and those outside it familiar with its technolooges, serve as wells of expertise that can be drawn on by clients for the short or long term. Value Added Resellers (VARs) are important for re-selling company products and technology.
A few months ago I had a conversation with a fellow who was building a VAR for the Google suite of products. It looks like it went live in October. I have not used it, but certainly the idea has power. It is similar to the Office Suite, including outlook, but brings in chat, calendaring, and HTML authoring, all with the simplicity of remote hosting on Google’s infrastructure. Check out Google Apps for Your Domain if you think it might be a good fit for you.