First it was “Software as a Service”, pioneered by folks like Salesforce.com, back when the century was turning. 

Today, more and more of the things around us are becoming “as a service”.

  • Safari Books Online is bringing us “technical education as a service”. I can find 95% of the books and technical training videos I want on Safari, exactly when I want them, 24×7.
  • Trunk Club brings us “fashion shopping as a service”. A stylist chooses clothes that match your circumstances, which you can keep or return. (Anyone who knows me knows that fashion sense is service I desperately need but don’t have.)
  • Uber and Tesla are working very hard to bring us “transportation as a service”. A driverless car brings you to work, goes off to service someone else, and comes back to pick you up at quitting time.

Television as a Service
I dropped out of mainstream cable TV years ago — mainly because the video recorder kept failing. From Time Warner Cable (TWC), we have very-basic cable TV, and mid-range Internet.
This month, we picked up Sling TV, which made for our fifth streaming provider.

  1. Netflix – $8
  2. Hulu – $8
  3. Amazon Video – Bundle
  4. TWC App – Bundle
  5. Sling TV – $20

It seems like a lot, but since Amazon and TWC are included in bundles I already have, the carrying cost is $36, plus $10 for very-basic cable.
Success!
Between all five, we finally have access to All The Things.

  • Netflix - Series and movies from prior years. No commercials.
  • Hulu - Series from last night plus original content. Some commercials (no commercial option).
  • Amazon Video - An eclectic mix of bundled and fee-for-service offerings, plus original content. No commercials.
  • TWC App - Most of the basic cable stations PLUS a vital selection of on-demand. Commercials.
  • Sling TV - Cable TV over IP, complete with all the commercials.

It’s easy to wonder why we need all five. The answer is that what one doesn’t provide, another does, and none of these platforms are direct competitors. There is virtually no overlap.

It’s a marvel of a market differentiation and finding your niche.

The closest overlap is the TWC App’s on-demand service. Like maybe half of these can be found on Hulu, the others not so much. The “not-so-much” being CBS shows. CBS offers its own subscription platform and strategically puts very little on Hulu (an expensive strategy doomed to fail). We considered dropping Hulu, but TWC sometimes has issues with fast-forward and saving your place, so we tend to use TWC On Demand for things not found on Hulu.

Ultimately, we did drop Netflix, mainly because we’ve seen all the good stuff already. I took half of the $8 savings and upgraded to commercial-free Hulu. (And then there were four.)

Not-So Smart TVs
The new pain-point became is that, as an early adopter of Smart TVs, I wasn’t able to upgrade the built-in apps. With those TVs, you get what you got. I’m now in the process of putting Rokus on each set, so that we have a consistent, upgradeable interface. It’s lipstick on a pig, but I’m not ready to replace the pigs.
Since TWC thoughtfully provides an Roku app gateway to its live cable service, we can stay in Roku and still get the local news. Ahhh …. finally, we’re back to a one stop shop.

Apps as a Service
We see much the same thing happening on the Salesforce platform. On its own, Salesforce provides a world-class CRM, which any business absolutely needs. After that, the market diverges: some folks need this, and some folks need that.

Just as I can plugin Hulu and Netflix to MY television platform, you can plugin AppExchange apps into YOUR Salesforce platform. You can choose just the apps you want and choose between free and premium channels (just like television!). Salesforce orgs are like snowflakes, each has it’s own unique shape. 

It’s a brave new world, and I’m enjoying the choices.


What “as a service” vendors do you use? Do you enjoy the choice, or do you feel restricted?

Ted Husted is a Kaizen Squad developer on the Nimble AMS product crew. “We make the good changes that create a great product.” For more, follow @tedhusted on Twitter.