Google: Most powerful digital platform...for now

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.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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.

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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.

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