July 23, 2006 9:00 PM PDT

Do Google ads belong on a company desktop?

A start-up called Spiceworks is testing whether Google ads--commonly seen on blogs and other public Web sites--can finance a software company that sells to businesses.

On Monday, Spiceworks is expected to launch a beta of its namesake software, which monitors the networks of small- and medium-size businesses. Administrators can download the software, install it and get an inventory of what's on their network within a few minutes, according to Scott Abel, founder and CEO of the company.

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To set itself apart from existing providers, Spiceworks designed its product to be very simple to use. And it's free to use, supported by Google ads appearing on the right side of the administration console.

"When we were starting the company (last year), we looked at what you can do for free in the consumer Web, or Web 2.0, world and we see how that's pervading into the enterprise," said Jay Hallberg, vice president of marketing and another founder at the company.

"We think we will see more and more ad-based services in the enterprise," he said.

When an administrator is checking out printers, for example, Google ads relating to printing will appear. Rather than call the ads an annoyance, early users of the program have asked for more categories of ads, Hallberg said.

Although not widespread, software companies are experimenting with the notion of ad-supported software for businesses and consumers.

Seeing the success of Google, Microsoft has built ad-serving software for its Live hosted services and said it will explore the idea of using ads in desktop software. Some companies, such as gOffice, with its hosted productivity applications, are already doing it.

The people at Spiceworks have sought to break with the traditional enterprise software model in other ways as well. Using consumer Web services as a model, Abel said the company is trying to "make managing a network as easy as managing music with iTunes."

It developed the product using Ruby on Rails, a relatively new Web development framework that's gaining popularity, and used AJAX development techniques to create the application's user interface.

In addition, Spiceworks has built a feedback button into the application, which shows users a page with a listing of features. Customers can vote on whether they like a proposed feature, much as Digg.com participants influence an Internet posting's popularity, Hallberg said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Spiceworks, Web 2.0, software company, Google Inc., IBM Corp.

6 comments

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Interesting idea...
For there to be widespread adoption of desktop ads, there needs to be something in it for the company that owns the computers.

If all the ad revenue goes to the software utility company, Companies won't see the value of the product.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
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Actually
In this case it'll work. This gives small business network admins a valuable tool that they would never ever be able to get the company to pay for.
Posted by MrNougat (78 comments )
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Not on my Network
Think this through, to keep the adds up to date means a big hole in the firewall, I use too much of my time blocking the garbage out there without opening up another avenue for mal ware. Not on my Network!!!
Posted by Sir Limey (43 comments )
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Just so they have another version
Just so they offer another (pay) version without the advertisements, I don't see a problem with it.

It'd probably be a big help for smaller companies that don't have lots of dollars to shell out for software.


Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
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Small Businesses Need Tool
I think this is probably a good idea. I loaded the demo and found the tool easy to configure. The information offered was fairly good, but I thought it stopped short of offering some of the things that a business should be looking at.

I didn't find the add content to be overly bothersome, and this is a small price to pay to get some network monitoring. I think the target market for this kind of tool has to be the very small shop, that doesn't have the resources to do much proactive work.
Posted by Ray.Valentine (1 comment )
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Its free! So there are ads... whoopty do! If you do not like the ads you can pay for the Spiceworks My Way version and can have your company logo and other custom features for just $20 a month. Companies complain that IT management Software is so expensive then Spiceworks comes out for FREE and they complain about ADs? and they are ADs that only the IT people would see, not the clients.
Posted by BrandonWagman (1 comment )
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