"In 2012 we have seen significant developments begin to unfold from Microsoft, Google and Apple. Three years ago these businesses were un-competing, and today, due to their size, each firm can still claim to have varying degrees of uniqueness in various markets they occupy. But in the area of cloud storage and services, the three firms are now shoulder-to-shoulder in what could be the next new frontier in computing.
If you think of this as paths of convergence, Apple is approaching the space from the consumer hardware route, progressively offering i-device users increasing levels of service and options in iCloud and AppStore. Google is also approaching from a consumer focus, but its offer has always been software, but G Drive is the latest offensive to own user content in the cloud. Last of all, Microsoft has launched SkyDrive and Office 365 in attempt to monopolise on its position as the de facto authoring environment in the work place; Office, capturing all this documentation in the cloud. So what does this all mean?
With "Bring Your Own Device" hitting the enterprise with empowered staff choosing Apple products, and Google offering both Android and freemium services that are often found in places of work (GoogleDocs), the Enterprise as an IT landscape is very different to that of five years ago. This landscape has long been Microsoft’s hunting ground. And whilst Microsoft has made significant headway into the consumer market through Windows Phone and Windows 8 to compete with Apple and Google Android, I believe the Enterprise opportunity is the space where these firms’ convergence is most interesting.
All Enterprises produce huge quantities of digital content, from Word files through spreadsheets, marketing materials and product CADs. All of this content needs to be stored, shared, modified and executed as part of the machine that is Enterprise workflow. Many new digital content management firms have come on the scene, but they all built platforms that worked for the consumer market. Yet despite this, players such as Box, DropBox, YouSendIt and Huddle have all, to some degree, found traction in the Enterprise, albeit through pockets of users, rather than blanket adoption. Nevertheless, this reality shows that the Enterprise has a real need for this service, and a market leader who truly understands Enterprise content management and also Enterprise content workflow management. By rights, Microsoft should have this sown up. With SQL, Project, Excel, Exchange and Sharepoint, it had all of the components and know-how to build a comprehensive cloud-based home for the Enterprise. However, this has not happened. Whilst the new content storage vendors have built architectures for consumers, they have also built interfaces for consumers. This is also true of Apple and, to a lesser extent, Google. They have all looked at the consumer world, whether it be online or established consumer electronics, and understood the user interface needs to be simple, good to look at and quick to use. Microsoft has been dangerously slow in understanding the importance of this.
The Enterprise today is full of pockets of independent cloud software users, operating under the radar of corporate IT. Users are voting with their feet and getting their jobs done by choosing tools that work for them immediately. This creates a fractured picture of information security and Enterprise workflow efficiency. The notion I find so fascinating, however, is whether Apple, Google and Microsoft also see this; surely they must, and so, despite their different routes in, they are all on convergent paths to the centre of Enterprise process and content management. Microsoft is the legacy incumbent, Google the consumer style cloud vendor, and Apple the Bring Your Own Device king. Each of them has the means to own this frontier, but what is not clear is whether this is part of their respective strategies or merely circumstance of consumer technologies being used in the Enterprise. Whatever the case may be, the opportunity to own Enterprise content management and process is still very much up for grabs."