BW Online | July 5, 2004 | A Sweet Deal In Suite Software "Simdesk Technologies Inc. is a strange little operation, even for an Internet company. Its chief executive, Louis A. Waters, is not a techie but the retired head of onetime sanitation giant Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. And while it's little known, the 100-person Houston firm has a gargantuan ego. Having won a few deals over Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ), executives are convinced the Redmond (Wash.) giant is obsessed with squishing them before they get too powerful. Among other fears, SimDesk founder Ray C. Davis believes Microsoft may have tapped his cell phone and worries that it has planted a spy in his staff. "I think they'll go to any limits to squelch us," says Davis.
But here's the strangest part: Microsoft should be a tad nervous. That's because SimDesk may be closing in on one of tech's Holy Grails: anytime, anywhere computing on the cheap.
For years, Microsoft, IBM (IBM ), and others have painted visions of a future in which people could easily tap into their programs and information from whichever computer they happen to be using. But SimDesk is the first company to provide that promise in an ultra-affordable way. Individuals can log on to the SimDesk Web site, use basic programs, including word processing, e-mail, and spreadsheet packages, and store their stuff on the company's computers -- all for just a few dollars per person per year. There's no need to spend $399 to buy Microsoft's Office suite of applications.
What's more, SimDesk isn't for everyone. While its applications are compatible with Microsoft's ubiquitous Word and Excel, they lack some of the bells and whistles -- including so-called pivot-tables used by spreadsheet mavens to crunch data. More important, people who are used to instant response from PC software may have to wait seconds as even the simplest commands travel to SimDesk's servers in Houston and back."
Know many people who pay $399 for Office these days? I don't. I also don't know many people who want a browser/GUI 3270 suite of productivity tools.