(Note to self: Don’t ever do an image search on the word “Sassy” ever again.  Ever.)It's software.  It's a service.  It's software as a service!

In part 3 you’ll recall that we outlined three delivery methods for Cloud-based services: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.  Today we’re going to go a little deeper into SaaS.

“But Kevin.. I already know what it is.”

Bear with me. Even though people are buying (or using for free) services from Microsoft and others, I just wanted to take a minute to list out some of my favorites.  It’s often surprising to see how many services Microsoft provides.. and how long some of them have been around!

For “consumers” (a term that Microsoft uses to refer to us plain ordinary folks at home – pretty much anybody who is not in a “business”), I’m sure you recognize some of these:

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These are brands we know and (hopefully) love.  Some of them have been around for quite awhile.  So, does Microsoft know how to support, and have experience supporting massive scale online?

“Perhaps”

Not fully convinced?  Okay.. then lets take a look at how we support businesses with Software as a Service:

Microsoft Office 365 - Online Services & Hosted Software in the Cloud

Office365 is the next version of what is now our Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), improved to include the latest versions of Microsoft Exchange email, SharePoint Server 2010, Lync 2010 (for communications and presence).  And it now includes an option to license the full Office 2010 Professional Plus suite of applications for the desktop.  I’ll go into more specific detail about Office365 in another article in this series.

How’s that?

“Yeah.. that’s better.”

One more thing… Microsoft continues to work under the mantra “Three-screens-and-a-cloud”, meaning we want your experience to be seamless, integrated, and enjoyable however you want it; whatever device you’re using.  On your phone.  On your PC.  On your TV.  All smartly integrated and accessible because we support connectivity anywhere, using “the cloud” to make it happen. 

For example: I take a photo of you on my Windows Phone.  Because I’ve set my phone up with my LiveID account, it knows how to access and use my Windows Live SkyDrive account, and automagically uploads the photo there for me. 

Another example: I use MediaCenter on Windows 7 to record my favorite TV shows during the week.  I use the Zune software to sync them to my ZuneHD, and watch them while I’m working out at the gym.  I can just as easily put them on my phone

Yet another personal example: I have a ZunePass, so when I’m rehearsing with my band, and we start throwing out ideas of songs we might want to learn, I can easily search for and play the entire song right from my phone, right then and there. 

Still yet another example: I love the free Windows Live Essentials applications; especially Live Photo Gallery.  As the unofficial family photographer and digital historian, I have thousands of family photos all tagged and organized using noting more than that awesome, FREE tool, which also syncs to SkyDrive or Facebook or Flickr accounts.

“Isn’t that the one that Microsoft shows off in one of those strange ‘To the cloud!’ commercials?”

Um.. yeah.  More about that tomorrow.  But do you want to know what the biggest, most important, and yet least-thought-about free software service is?

“Sure.. what is it?”

It’s Windows Update.  Think about it.  Millions of computers all getting updates (it could happen!) from Microsoft  on the 2nd Tuesday of the month.  Can you even fathom the amount of scale and reliability required to pull that off?  It’s mind-blowing.

Kevin's Gamertag: KevinFullOfITHey.. just thought of another example: I play XBOX Live games on my phone now.  I get gamer achievements, too.

“Okay already!  Enough examples!  I get it.  Microsoft has some great services.”

You’re welcome.  What’s your favorite?  Tell us in the comments.

Check back for Part 5 tomorrow.  I’m going to trash those stupid “to the cloud!” commercials.