[IMGCAP(1)]I'd like to take this opportunity to diverge from the news of the week to expound upon a couple of topics, namely what has become somewhat of a religious debate over the cloud, as well as some thoughts on upcoming vendor events.

Usually I devote this column to reviewing the past week's news and offering a thought or two on what happened. Yes, there were a couple of significant items, Microsoft's reorganization being probably the most noteworthy, but as for its effects on the Dynamics channel and product direction in general -- that remains to be seen. 

So for now I'll discuss something that has been on my mind -- and, to be fair, on the minds of many sources I speak with on a regular and semi-regular basis: The Cloud.

It seems there's about as many opinions on what the cloud is and can do as there are about God and religion in general. For most, cloud isn't anything they can see or touch but they know it's there and for some that's a comforting thing, for others not so much. Those are the ones that need more "proof" that it exists; they want the security of knowing how it works, where their data and programs go and if they can get to it should they become worried something may happen to it or, simply want to move it somewhere else.

In short, how cloud breaks down these days is those who need to know how it happens and have some level of control over that process, and those who simply don't care and just want to experience its benefits -- that being the anytime, anywhere, on any device group. Some even go a step further and won't care exactly how much they get from the cloud, as long as they get some benefits.

So what I'm really getting at is, where do you sit? Depending on your firm's or your clients' needs, how exactly you experience cloud can make all the difference -- from a hosted environment or applications and services built on and for the Web and mobile devices, brought to you from data centers around the country or globe. Then again, it may not matter how, just that you are "in the cloud."

Believe it or not, even with all of the debate that is swirling around cloud -- religious or otherwise -- we need to be reminded that it is still very early days in terms of adoption and, more importantly, what it will become. I think the reality is nearly every business process we can think of is headed in this direction and the choice is to either wait until everything you need is there or start taking some dips in the water with what's available, in whatever from "cloud" is delivered to you.

OK, now that's off my chest I'd like to turn attentions to some upcoming vendor events.

First off, there's the innaugural XeroCon user and partner event coming Sept. 4-5 out at their U.S. base in San Francisco. Xero has been doing all it can to garner the attentions of accountants, small businesses and potential business partners since it came here two years go, and this will mark their first-ever summit of sorts, bringing current and potential users and partners -- and select "thought leaders" -- together for learning and cheerleading.

What's interesting, or at least I sort of found it to be so, is Intuit is on the same dates hosting a "VIP Accounting Professionals Summit" about 40 miles down the highway at its Mountain View headquarters. This is interesting only for the fact that Xero has made it abundantly clear since coming to the U.S. that Intuit, and its QuickBooks product in particular, are squarely in its crosshairs. In addition, Intuit chief executive Brad Smith has on a couple of occasions in the press called out Xero among its myriad of competitors, mostly recognizing their existence and even somewhat supporting what they do.

In general, I'm not one to make something out of nothing and it may well be that the timing of each event had little or nothing to do with the timing of the other. I'm just noting that Xero announced its full agenda and sent out invitations about a week or so before Intuit did so for theirs. Intuit's event is, conversely, more of an "invite only" event and will likely be attended by around 40 or so "accounting industry thought leaders," whereas Xero is expecting around 300+ businesses, accountants and a similar pool of press and analysts. No judgements, just wanted to throw it all out there as interesting to me.

Then we also have the annual Sage Summit coming up starting this weekend and lasting through next week (July 21-25). In recent years, Sage Summit has not disappointed from a pure news and even speculative nature what with reorganizations, executive staff moves, rebranding, product sell offs and discontinuations as well as the company's touted plans for the cloud and the future in general -- it's always entertaining and makes the job of a journalist and analyst covering this space that more enjoyable.

This year I'm expecting much more discussion on mobile and cloud, reminders that the channel is still important but the focus on the customer is king, and I'm thinking we'll even hear talk of Sage being back in acquisition mode -- something it hasn't done here in North America in a few years. I plan to post and Tweet on what information I get from Sage Summit, as well as a wrap up in my next Tech Take, so do stay tuned.


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