Google, Microsoft could be the enterprise go-to digital app platform

Forrester Research argued in a research report that Google and Microsoft check off the consumer, commerce, corporate and connected checkboxes to be a business digital app platform. It may make sense to throw other players into the mix too.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The next generation digital application platform will have to connect various products and systems, bridge corporate and consumer use and have commerce intertwined via systems of engagement, according to Forrester Research.

And through that lens Google and Microsoft may have the most bases covered to be the digital platform for business in the future, argued Forrester in a research note out Thursday.

Forrester's argument is that digital applications need to connect four domains that empower individuals and create personal experiences, use commerce like marketplaces to drive customer engagement, deliver familiar enterprise applications and play in the Internet of things and associated technology.

On the connected product fronts, no tech vendor is exactly killing it. Wearable experiments such as Google Glass have come and gone. It also remains to be seen whether smartwatches are everything their cracked up to be.

On the backend, vendors like SAP, Oracle and IBM have the enterprise chops, but not the consumer touch points. Amazon and Apple have the consumer and commerce bases covered. It's worth noting that Apple increasingly has the enterprise chops too.

But Forrester's analysis looked at Google and Microsoft as the broadest players with a chance to cover the four key digital domains. Google has Android and Microsoft has Windows 10 to cover multiple devices. Google is investing in connected devices and Microsoft is moving in that direction with Microsoft Band and HoloLens. Microsoft is strong in the enterprise and Google is weaker but has Apps for Work and other tools. Commerce is run by Google via its search ad business with Microsoft as a challenger.

In a graphic, here's Google and Microsoft across domains:


The argument from Forrester is that experience, insight and application services will all combine. Google and Microsoft will connect these tools via the cloud. Forrester is recommending that CXOs need to define their digital application platform pronto and figure out what strategic vendors will fit.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Microsoft has a better position for the enterprise because it's unclear whether a digital application platform really needs the actual connected device hardware. For instance, it's unclear how Microsoft's Xbox and Minecraft touch points really help the enterprise. Google's side robotics projects are interesting, but seem like a diversion for business tech. A Nest thermostat also doesn't do a whole lot for business.

Simply put, the consumer touch points may not be that important as long as you can deliver a personal experience to that worker or customer. Based on Forrester's construct that there are three interconnection services---experience, insight and application platforms---across consumer, corporate, commerce and connected domains I'd argue the vendor worth pondering is Salesforce.

Salesforce has the systems of engagement and has worked its way into analytics and commerce from a back end service and sales automation perspective. Meanwhile, Salesforce has been experimenting on the Internet of things front. There are no Salesforce devices per se, but I'm not seeing how hardware is necessarily relevant to the platform of the future. If anything being hardware agnostic is better. Microsoft beats its head against the Lumia Windows Phone wall, but other than pride it's unclear what the returns are to win in a consumer device market.

Forrester's point about digital applications is well taken, but you may want to cast a wider vendor net. The reality is your digital application plan is likely to include multiple vendors---even though the usual enterprise suspects are going to sell you the buy our stack line.

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