Google Plus, Google's idea of a social network is in highly controlled beta (aka 'Field Test') at the moment. Very few people have had their paws on it but Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadRightWeb invested a whole night trawling through the features. He emerges impressed:
This is a really big deal, a super ambitious effort involving scores of engineers over months of near total secrecy. (Though some helpful sources and I scooped the core Circles part of all this three months ago.) The service is really, really well done. Will it be good enough? I have no idea, but I have felt drawn to keep using it all night long.
OK - so Google's off to a good start. I was more interested in last evening's stream of consciousness coming from John Furrier of Silicon Angle who says he's been following Google for more than a decade, loves the company but critically important to this discussion says:
Google has the Oracle problem..how long do you hold on to your money making "declining" franchise before killing your own to keep a future
Furrier argues (among other things and in no particular order - all via his Tweetsream)
what just happened on twitter is why search is dying @JillatHP just shared a link with me that was relevant, perfect context, and timing
Facebook is a threat to Google's search franchise which is why Google has to run with new paradigm; at risk - billions of dollars
Google is realizing that their incumbent user experience is getting worse everyday..the sooner they cannibalize their old product the better
more people are relying less on google as they "discover" content from other sources - search engines are changing so is google
people don't get me wrong I'm a Google fan but Google is out to lunch on anything social and human oriented
I remember years ago Paul Strassmann talking about the success of Google but caveatting that there is nothing so unique about Google that its business model is invulnerable. If you've heard Strassmann, are a lover of history and facts garnered over many decades then you also know that Strassmann is not a sensationalist but highly rational and engaging human being. At least that's my view. There's another truism - all empires fall, eventually.
And while technology can and often does provide the means to establish what at times seems an unassailable fortress, somewhere along the way, the foundations of the empire always crumble. It is that knowledge (which you can check for yourself by going back to any and all of the great empires) that informs my view that Furrier is right and that despite its mountain of cash, Google will fall.
What is different today is that Internet speed is accelerating both the growth and then destruction of these empires. I have recently speculated idly that 40 years seems to be about the tipping point, using SAP and Oracle as examples. Google is a little different as it was born in a different age and appears to be acquiring those 'incumbent' characteristics far quicker than either Oracle or SAP. It's a sign of the time. That also means I am not convinced that Facebook is the inevitable beneficiary.
But what the heck does this have to do with enterprise?
A number of my colleagues are of the opinion that the dominant forces in the enterprise software space of tomorrow do not lie with the usual suspects of SAP, Oracle, IBM, Infor and the rest. It fits well with the 40 year theory. I'm not even sure that we know who that company will be though I am having a tentative bet on Workday.
As I listen to the many voices continuing to bellow the need for enterprise to be more social, whatever that's supposed to mean, I can't help but notice that not one of them and I mean NOT ONE, has for one minute thought through the deep needs of enterprise to continue transacting for goods and services and how the social mantra is mediated across those needs and systems.
Those systems are not going away until either, they are fully automated or, we invent a viable alternative to Pacioli. Try as I might, I cannot see either scenario happening in my lifetime although I am guessing we'll get to the former before the latter.
On the other hand, signs are emerging that at least some are starting to listen to what it means although I find that conversation to be somewhat shallow.
That is why companies like Appirio, with its emphasis on integrating Google, Workday and Salesforce, represent the front line troops in offering what I believe is an intermediate waypoint.
It is why TIBCO will be the kingmaker in this new battle for the hearts and minds of enterprise decision makers.
It is also why Google, for all its power, has to get serious about Circles (plus a slew of other assets) AND solve the never ending problem of privacy in an open and transparent manner. If it does that, then it shifts track and moves to a road that recognises that human intervention can very usefully act as what Sameer Patel calls the 'enterprise middleware of the future' between man and machine and which Furrier alludes to in reference to search via Twitter as a social network. If Google does all those things (and especially focuses on mobile,) then it does not survive. It does as Furrier suggests. It cannibalizes and reinvents. Just like IBM had to when staring disaster in the face in the early 1990s.
That's where opinion is going to polarize. This is not about 'Google going social' but realizing that it holds in its hands the potential to become something that is at the heart of enterprise, the value that can deliver and the massive revenue opportunity that is staring it in the face. Everything else is just happy talk.
Image courtesy of XKCD via RWW