Monday, 6 December 2010
Microsoft Google and the Cloud War
As I have blogged about a great how I see the entire future of Collaboration and the Cloud as being defined as a war between Google and Microsoft. Recently I blogged about how gaps between Microsft's R&D and release of a Web enabled OS have been determined by the successes and failures (mostly failures) of Google to challenge windows. See Share the Point: Google OS Chrome and Microsoft..
At the start of 2010 I blogged about how this "Cloud War" between Google and Microsoft would structure the war for the Slate/Tabled/Pad space which I saw coming Share the Point: The war for the Slate Space. Given the evens of 2010 and the rise of the iPad this blog post turned out to be rather prothetic and I have become more and more convinced that the entire IT landscape, both Enterprise and consumer, is being defined ultimately by the battle between these companies.
To say it simply Microsoft will innovate in to the Cloud only as far as Google forces it to and no further.
For a long time Microsoft had the sweetest deal in IT industry. They owned the OS space, they owned the productivity space. They were assured a steady flow of revenue from just Windows and Office and Windows and Office could drive other products like Exchange and SQL Server.
But two things developed. One was the Web 2.0 revolution starting with Google using social information in search. Social Networks was not part of Microsoft model of Office and Windows. People sat in Offices and looked through Windows. Google was making wealth by making the work of people inside of these Offices in to a product with their PageRank system.
Microsoft sat by helplessly as Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter created the Social Network and made the MSN obsolete. Microsoft made the biggest failure of its history allowing MSN to be overshadowed to such a degree by companies that did not exist 15 years ago.
Microsoft was stuck playing catch up with mixed success. SharePoint is the one true triumph of this space. Microsoft decided that if it could not innovate Web 2.0 at least it could score big by bringing established Web 2.0 into the Enterprise, inside the world of Offices and Windows.
But in the past 2 years something much more ground breaking has happened. Mobile. Mobile has stated a process where by IT will no longer live in Offices and Windows. Mobile has given users doors to walk out in to the real world. Web 3.0 is here and promising to make many more billionaires than Web 2.0. It also posses a serious threat to Microsoft.
The present Microsoft R&D strategy to develop innovation but market only that which fits is current tactial advantage could, in the current climate, be washed away very quickly. So far Microsoft has been lucky in Google's failure to really present a productivity tool that takes away the market for Windows and Office. This could end very shortly and suddenly.
Microsoft already finds itself in the unusual position of having to insert itself in a OS market as the distant "also ran". Windows 7 Mobile has to catch up to much more established Mac, Android, and RIM "smartphone" OS platforms. Microsoft has already taken Mac on and won, but at that time there was no third option waiting in the wings. Microsoft is in real danger of not having a niche in the mobile world.
If that happens and IT stops being out Offices and Windows but Doors and Parks, than SharePoint might be a pretty limited option.
Microsoft would certainly survive though, and actually for the ecosystem of Microsoft developers and consultants that might be the best thing. Microsoft would be forced to roll out R&D to the market almost as fast as it makes it. Today the Microsoft Labs is a mass toy store which might never be open. We have seen Kinetic, Office Live Apps and Photosynth but there is a great deal more thy are holding on to which would keep Microsoft relevant in a mobile world more dominated by Google.
But I think the biggest battle in the Cloud War is about to stat, and its a battle that will be waged only in Richmond. The battle to make Microsoft see that the future of IT is not dominated by the structures of Windows and Offices.