Google: Most powerful digital platform...for now

Google: Most powerful digital platform...for now

Summary: Google has the leading digital platform in 2014, says Forrester, but Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are all vying to be personal coaches and your assistant. Be wary CMOs.

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Google has the most powerful digital platform going into 2014 as top players such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft all vie to take occupy more minutes of your daily lives, according to a report from Forrester Research.

digital platforms

Forrester analysts James McQuivey ranked his top digital platforms on the basis of four disruptive categories: Environmental sensing (Google Nest), communications insight (Gmail and Facebook), personal coaching and human assistance (Apple's Siri and Amazon's Mayday button).

For chief marketing officers, the trick is going to be leveraging these platforms all while keeping an eye on their dominance. In other words, marketers need to partner with these digital platforms and profit them while being scared to death of them at the same time.

According to McQuivey, Google can be the fastest to create a killer digital platform. Aside from coaching and human assistance, Google already has all the parts.

McQuivey said:

Google is strong in the traditional areas of PC and mobile utility. The only areas where Google doesn’t play at all today are personal coaching and human assistance, at least one of which would be within its grasp if Google were to simply provide users with a dashboard view of their own search interests, communication habits, and app behaviors...Our bet: Google will double-down on Glass and other wearables while also stimulating the installation of more sensors in the home; it will ignore human assistance for another year because, let’s face it, humanity is not Google’s strength.

Let's repeat that quote of the day for giggles: "Humanity is not Google’s strength."

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Apple has the cash and brand to do whatever it wants and has a human assistance lead. Apple's iBeacons can add sensors for awareness and wearables can't be too far behind.

McQuivey reckons that Microsoft needs a big 2014 or it will fall off the digital platform list. If it weren't for Xbox, McQuivey noted that Microsoft wouldn't be on the digital platform list. Skype, Surface and in-car technology are key assets though.

As for Facebook, McQuivey said that Facebook needs to allow its users to do more with their data and capture more life information. Facebook could be a personal coach: "Add the ability to learn from your interactions with friends on Facebook or email and soon Facebook would know enough about how you manage your life to help you set and achieve goals that are important to you."

Amazon has a lot of parts, but hasn't put them together just yet. Amazon's retail and subsidy model gives it a long-term edge and devices like a phone and set-top box could round out the portfolio. Personal coaching could be a good avenue for Amazon though.

McQuivey noted:

Amazon knows everything you search and buy, putting the company in a position to guide you in how you spend your money, manage your health, interact with your family, and make career decisions.

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Add up all the things Amazon could be doing and you can see that Amazon could join Apple and even Google at the top of the list very quickly. We have a hunch that Jeff Bezos knows this.

As for the rest of the pack, McQuivey added that companies like Samsung and Yahoo have a lot of ground to cover to create digital platforms. Samsung has been trying to make a direct connection with its customers.

My take: In McQuivey's note, the most interesting item is the personal coaching and life advisor role. What makes that category of disruption most compelling is that it's Google's weak spot. Google is too engineer heavy to be a personal pal. Google is building robots, self-driving cars and probably Skynet, which as we all know wasn't exactly human friendly. Apple has the brand to be a personal coach and Amazon and Facebook both have the data. Of those three, nailing the personal life coach thing may boil down to something McQuivey doesn't mention: Trust.

Topics: CXO, Amazon, Apple, Cloud, Google, Social Enterprise

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42 comments
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  • Google

    For all the power Google currently has, they are surprisingly vulnerable. I'm not going to say Google is built like a house of cards, but the vast majority of their revenue comes from advertising on their search engine. If Microsoft were to get a hold of an algorithm that could best Google's it could be game over in a frightening hurry. Google doesn't have a diverse portfolio it can hold onto to generate solid cash flow if something were to happen to their search engine.

    I don't like what Google has built up to this point. Yes, they have a thermostat, a free email service, Glass, self driving cars, a mobile OS they give away, and so forth but their plan doesn't appear to me to be part of a larger design. Where does a self driving car fit into their plans for search advertising and revenue? I don't get it. If they want to know where you are, Google already uses people's smart phones for that.

    I have no idea why Facebook is listed above as a strength for Google's digital platform. Facebook is a competitor if they are anything. They have tried to make their own search engine (with graph) and even attempted to make their own smart phone.
    Maha888
    • That is true for any search engine.

      It is also why Google isn't a monopoly.

      The part you don't understand is called "curiosity".

      And that fosters "diversity" - they won't be dependent on only one source of income.
      jessepollard
      • Curiosity and Maps

        Self driving cars will benefit from Google Maps and even improve upon the quality of Google Maps. Since Google Maps is the best navigation service and is tied into the Google search engine people will have to do Google searches to get the best navigation available, or even use the self driving car to begin with. In other words, it's not going to drive you to Starbucks unless you start with a search for Starbucks.
        T1Oracle
        • The last time I used Google Maps---

          and i'm deadly serious about it being the LAST time---it instructed me to make a left turn into oncoming traffic on a one-way side of a boulevard. Now, that would have been very exciting if I'd been in a self-driven Google car, wouldn't it???
          "...Google Maps is the best navigation service..."??? I think not!!!
          Userama
          • Depends on the last update...

            The road could have been changed since the last update.

            That is a problem for ALL mapping services...

            It is also possible that the local government didn't realy notify anyone - after all, it is expected that the driver READ THE SIGNS, as you obviously did.

            Even getting a local map and laying out your own route is subject to the same problem... If your map doesn't indicate it is a one-way and you didn't get a map printed that very day. And even then, it is possible the road could be made one way due to a repair and you have to take a detour.

            Google maps is reportedly the best - but "best" doesn't mean error free. It means "fewer errors than the other choices".
            jessepollard
          • Exactly right about the updates

            Google basically has to have someone in each town, driving every single roadway to make sure that traffic patterns have not changed and, if they have, update their service to be totally acccurate all the time.
            Lerianis10
          • Good self driving cars

            Understand road signs.
            I don't think self driving cars will be something for the next 20 years or more, maybe assisted driving.
            Humans are amazingly good processing images, after said that self driving cars should understand road signs I wonder how hard it would be for a computer to understand a road sign lacking paint, partially behind trees and so on... just an example.
            AleMartin
          • Good self driving cars

            Understand road signs.
            I don't think self driving cars will be something for the next 20 years or more, maybe assisted driving.
            Humans are amazingly good processing images, after said that self driving cars should understand road signs I wonder how hard it would be for a computer to understand a road sign lacking paint, partially behind trees and so on... just an example.
            AleMartin
          • I expect it to happen, but a bit sooner -

            and differently.

            I expect self driving will first occur with the trucking industry, and in two phases.

            LIke ocean going ships now - when a ship enters major ports, there is a local pilot put on board. Ships at sea have a officer on deck, but for anything that happens the captain is alerted, and he takes over.

            Trucks would go driverless (or nearly so) from city to city, and only require manual driving to enter cities, and final destinations, and perhaps truck stops for refueling.

            In between time, the "driver" would be able to carry out other duties (time monitoring, traffic checks, cargo checks (as in refrigerator trucks) -- and ready to handle problems. He could even take naps.
            jessepollard
    • Google vs Microsoft

      While there are risks for Google, if you read the article it says Google is the best prepared to create a killer digital platform - and you don't have to agree - obviously.
      While MS is more diversified, on the base of it there are traditional PCs. Without them Microsoft would be losing money and unable to pay for bing, Xbox, surface, ...
      While web advertising is a growing market, traditional PCs are at best stagnant.
      What would MS conquer with a killer algorithm? The same share they have with WP? The success of windows 8, their dismiss from auto makers, a 2 years behind Cortana ... ?
      Microsoft needs more than an algorithm to regain the lead in a digital world.
      AleMartin
      • If Microsoft actually had a better search algorithm

        then their answers would suit people better...

        And that would attract MORE users.

        Instead, they pay for/bribe users, steal other companies queries/results...
        jessepollard
      • Well, your comment is odd....

        Firstly, sure if there were no PC's Microsoft would be in trouble. But that's the most bizarre comment in history around here. If there were no PC's we wouldn't even be having this conversation, there certainly wouldn't be a Google at all and the whole issue would be moot. Im not sure what your idea was there.

        I mean, if your implying that maybe in the not too distant future there will be no PC's, that's pretty much as misguided as thinking about where Microsoft would be if there was never any PC's. PC's clearly are not going anyplace soon. There is absolute evidence that is a fact. Anyone who travels through companies that have had to use PC's for years will still see they need and use pretty much today as they ever have.

        Some consumer usage has shifted around, as in not just brand new computing never done in the past due to being able to now do some computing mobile, as opposed to actual replacement computing where what had traditionally been done on a PC or laptop at home is now instead done on a mobile device. But most of the PC computing that consumers end up replacing by doing it on a mobile device are tasks that are typically what I would call issues of "handiness" of being able to do something, usually some quick web based task, that's largely just a question of the mobile device being handy and reasonably capable of doing the simple task and one no longer has to wait until they get to home or office to look something up on Google, or go to their banking website or look at or send an email for example. Currently the vast majority of mobile devices are no where even in the same or similar realm they would need to be in to see people in either the office or at home putting their PC's out to pasture and their tablet taking up its position instead.

        I had someone put the whole PC vs. mobile device issue into some genuine real world perspective recently. A friend who has a pretty decent media PC hooked up to his big screen was commenting on how much his Galaxy cost him and its level of utility compared to his PC's. After showing me a number of things the Galaxy could do and what he had on it he said these rather informative words; at the end of the day, his media PC could do everything, he can websurf, email, run any application, store vast quantities of anything he wants to keep, create documents and do complex video and photo editing, watch stored and web based movies, listen to music or watch music videos, play DVD and Blueray disks and even make web based phone calls and play massive games and the Galaxy tab? Its makes for a decent remote control.

        That's still where we are today with tablets, they are an incredible amount of money for the one advantage of mobility at the loss of what most human beings still really want in a computing device, and that's a loss of large amounts of storage, ability to play disks and big time games, the ability to multitask with ease, run complex applications when needed and have the processing power to do it all without a significant stutter or glitch.

        Tablets are not there yet and without some new wild innovative technology they still need to hook up to large keyboards and monitors, just as a PC does, to do many heavy lifting tasks and that causes them to loose their edge in mobility they have over laptops when they are used that way.

        So speculating on where Microsoft would be without the PC is pointless. If there was no PC tomorrow or even in the next few years we would all be hurting badly and how to get something closely resembling a PC into our lives ASAP would be priority one, not thinking about what a great position that leaves Google in.
        Cayble
        • I don't know what you were reading...

          But it certainly had nothing to do with the article.
          jessepollard
          • You dont know what I was reading??? Well read up.

            @AleMartin

            "While MS is more diversified, on the base of it there are traditional PCs. Without them Microsoft would be losing money and unable to pay for bing, Xbox, surface, ... "

            That's what I was reading.

            It struck me as quite an odd comment. Particularly as the days of X-box needing other MS funds has come and gone, its been profitable for awhile now.

            And in case you don't understand where AleMartin's comment came from:

            @Maha888 "I'm not going to say Google is built like a house of cards, but the vast majority of their revenue comes from advertising on their search engine. If Microsoft were to get a hold of an algorithm that could best Google's it could be game over in a frightening hurry"

            You should try following the line of response, its actually a great clue as to what a poster is responding to. Im sure you will keep that tip in mind in the future.
            Cayble
          • I didn't read your entire post

            I said "traditional PCs" and while I didn't explain what they are, I thought it would be clear for most readers.
            AleMartin
          • And I was responding in relation to traditional PC's.

            You should have read my whole post before responding I guess.

            And if you think traditional PC's are leaving anytime soon your a madman.
            Cayble
          • So I read a bit more

            Nothing you said go against my post. I still think it's not so clear that MS has a more diversified business.
            Google is "blamed" of having just one source of revenue - advertising. In the same way 'MS have just one source of revenue - people buying licenses. Monetization is not about diversity.
            Microsoft is very well positioned, but they base their profits in a type of devices that are not growing anymore.
            I'm not saying that Google or Apple or other are better prepared, but I also don't see valid and beyond doubt explanations of the opposite.
            Recent history is more about MS losing to the competition when "new stuff" is involved.

            You are wrong about the Xbox:
            www.neowin.net/news/report-microsofts-xbox-division-has-lost-nearly-3-billion-in-10-years

            bgr.com/2013/11/26/xbox-one-profit-estimate/

            But you can take Xbox out from my list - the point is MS's diversification comes with a cost, a cost they can easily support because they dominate the traditional pc business.
            AleMartin
          • No, Google advertising isnt what Maha888 said the problem was.

            This is why reading carefully and understanding how and why a very good point was or was not made is important. What Maha888 said was this:

            "For all the power Google currently has, they are surprisingly vulnerable. I'm not going to say Google is built like a house of cards, but the vast majority of their revenue comes from advertising on their search engine. If Microsoft were to get a hold of an algorithm that could best Google's it could be game over in a frightening hurry. Google doesn't have a diverse portfolio it can hold onto to generate solid cash flow if something were to happen to their search engine."

            The problem isn't "advertising only" as the major revenue point for Google, the problem is; the major revenue point is coming from the Google search engine, and the reliance on a superior algorithm to maintain that place of superiority in their market. The point being, that search engine algorithm is a significantly more singular and fragile target by far than Windows OS and Microsoft Office which are the two major revenue producers for Microsoft.

            Its a colossal undertaking with extraordinary pitfalls involved to develop some kind of replacements for the two major software programs that Microsoft generates income from, reproducing better and more popular from anyone thus far has proved to be futile.

            An ingenious search engine algorithm may be extraordinarily difficult to come up with, but the dynamics of the business model for generating income from a search engine dosnt come with all the difficulties of trying to promote a new OS or office software suite does.

            For example, all Microsoft, OR ANYONE for that matter has to do to put Google on the ropes is to sit in their computer labs and try like hell to concoct a better search engine algorithm, as difficult as that might be. If they succeed at that then if they are a big company to start with, like Microsoft for example, all they have to do is make the search engine available and then promote it as "the better search engine algorithm" and they sit back and just wait for things to happen.

            Create a new PC operating system, and the first thing you have to do is convince an OEM you have a saleable new OS you want to get on their hardware, then you have to convince the public to buy your OS on someones hardware instead of their trusted and long used system. This cost the public real money. In the case of a business, huge money, new training and many other new complexities that have to be taken care of and new customers have to invest WAY WAY more into that kind of transaction then to simply try out a new free search engine online that says its the newer better way. If the new search engine is wrong, they just go back to their old one, no monetary cost and next to no time and practically no downside involved.

            Googles Achilles heel is most definitely that right now vast sums of their income come from Google search, an entity that can be made short work of easily if someone invents the better way. It could happen fast. Within months Google could be in ruins if lets say Apple found the much better algorithm and came out with "Apple Search", "The Magic way to surf online".

            With Apples advertising department they would have millions trying out their search engine in days. Hell, people have lined up in the rain that long to PAY MONEY to Apple for a new product. A new free search engine by Apple that is purportedly better then Google would soon be drawing hundreds of millions in days.

            If Apple did have the better search engine than Google, within about 10 months I predict Google would be staggering from the blow. It wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to Microsoft.

            Google has a position of vulnerability not at all the same for either Apple or Microsoft.

            Don't just look at the words on the page; comprehend them.
            Cayble
          • You have a point

            But it's just one side of the coin.
            Google doesn't dominate search just because of the algorithm - in the end they are just better, as Microsoft is better with desktops - and I mean globally not just technically.
            From my point of view I don't see Google losing search dominance, they have it on desktops, their smartphone OS is about to be selling 1 billion a year, they are in front in tablets, they have the data to lead the next digital era - car infotainment, personal assistants, maps, augmented reality, ... their biggest failure is social where facebook dominates but Microsoft is not even there.
            I don't see Microsoft fall like a house of cards - no way. But they are extremely dependent from windows and office. And while Google is expanding the lead, MS is not. Windows is huge and it will be hard to make a dent on it, but if someone told me that in 5 years, one between Google search and Microsoft Windows were about to get 20 or 30% smaller I would bet on windows.
            In the latest times we see Microsoft reacting - mobile, against chromebooks, the scroogled thing, web office, cortana, ... While Apple and Google seem to be much more focused in their own agenda.

            Time will tell, but I'm normal right.
            AleMartin
      • "killer digital platform"

        Excellent term for their self-driving cars.
        Userama