Dare recently made a comment about quality from my previous post in SaaS. Here is right in what I meant is better accountability in SLA, but I was also thinking to about quality that is not in the software itself, but rather from customer service and accountability.
When Apache breaks in an enterprise, there is no one to call, no one to claim to directly, no one to fire (except the guy who made the decision to go with open source). There is the desire that the feature/bug be addressed in a timely manner. Also, new features are not driven by existing customers as much as when someone is paying real $$$.
If GE goes to Apache foundation and tells them to fix something, they would say: stay in line (or worse: that is stupid, fix your process). If GE goes to a big software company they are paying top dollars to and say the same, the answer will be: yes sir.
Also, if users start complaining that they don't understand how to configure apache, the best solution is to say: hire an expensive consultant or learn it. The quality that comes from other service because of big margins is: call our technical support, or read the tons of books, or heck..we'll even send you an expert on it.
As a matter of fact, this is exactly what Red Hat sells. They may not sell the software, but all that devs they have are either paid by support money they get from their users or from developers working for another big company that pays them kind of in the same way. Either way, the users always has to pay. There is no such things as a free lunch.
SaaS may be similar in that the margins are very very very small. You need tremendous scale to support infrastrucutre or transfer the cost to someone else. Ads don't have a place in productivity applications, so that cost is transfered to the user by subscription. What SaaS as basically done is said: we'll charge you much less for the same thing, and we are able to do this by economies of scale. And we'll also reduce your TCO because we'll do the upgrades and deployment for you. But nothing prevents a shrinked wrapped software company to say: wel'll deploy and fix all your problems for free, and we'll give you free upgrades for life. Just don't burden us with servers costs.