It's been fun writing about surveillance systems these past two months, but I'm beginning to think my phone is tapped. Maybe it's time for a less sensitive topic.

Let's try application service providers (ASPs). They were a hot item back in the bubble days when any new idea could get funded by being, well, new. The idea was to be a vendor that ran software for many companies, rather than selling the software for each company to run for itself. Apart from making good use of the Internet – itself a magic word in those days – this promised lower cost because the ASP would spread the expense of specialized staff and sophisticated systems across many clients. Deployment would be completed in days or weeks, not months or years. Perhaps most important – although the claim had to stated tactfully – an ASP removed the risk of implementation failure due to errors by the in-house IT department.

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