Google, Guest post, Microsoft, Software as a Service, Web/Tech, Yahoo

Hey, You, Get Off Of My Cloud!

This is yet another guest post by my super popular contributor and Twitter friend, Paisano. This time I asked him to do a think piece on that over-used buzz word of tech buzzwords, THE CLOUD! Enjoy!

The rumblings you hear overhead isn't thunder but everyone scrambling to setup shop in the cloud these days. The consensus is that we want to run and store all of our stuff in one centralized location online, not in several different local destinations which is a headache and time consuming. Let's focus on the cloud computing strategies for three of the biggest angels on the web these days: Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

Yahoo finally made an official announcement regarding their Cloud strategy in June 2008. They've established a new team that will focus on cloud computing and data infrastructure.

"These moves accelerate the ability of our deep and talented team to build great products, grow our audiences and improve                      monetization globally," said Jerry Yang, Yahoo's CEO, in a statement.

Here's the part that got me excited: The new organizational structure will improve Yahoo's products and speed up decisions, the company said.

I've been vocal in my criticism of Yahoo's bungling of excellent services they've acquired, most notably Delicious. While they managed not to screw up the beauty that is Flickr, they've done absolutely nothing in over three years of delicious ownership (Internet time is measured in dog years). The reason why delicious should have been more important to Yahoo was because it was and still is the king of social bookmarking. If Yahoo had a clear cloud strategy in place they would not have neglected delicious as long as they have. It's a powerful position being the hub for all of the bookmarks and favorites for internet surfers. I hope we see Delicious 2.0 before we experience Web 3.0.

Yahoo does have a few positives in their favor. Besides Flickr, the number one photo service in the cloud today, they also purchased MyBlogLog which is a popular service for bloggers. However, they do not have any presence when it comes to cloud storage such as Box.net or Dropbox which can hurt them in the long run. By the way, I'd be shocked if Yahoo or some other giant doesn't gobble up either of these excellent online storage services very soon.

All of these impressive goals and mission statements leave one scratching their head wondering what on the world Yahoo has been doing the last few years as everyone else headed for the sky. Why has it taken them so long to get with the program? We will find out if it is indeed too little, too late.

Microsoft announced their cloud strategy much earlier than Yahoo when they unveiled their Live Mesh Service. At the heart of this ambitious initiative is the goal of synchronizing all of your data and devices via the web.

The first order of business for Microsoft should be to decide what they want to be when they grow up. They currently are competing with themselves on the cloud! They have several offerings crossing beams such as their online storage services Live SkyDrive and Office Live Workspace. By the way, don't be fooled by the name "Office Live Workspace". It is not a web-based version of Microsoft Office ala Google Docs! It merely allows you to store Office documents online, period. There is no Word or Excel for the Web from Microsoft at this time. Why has it taken them so long to believe that people want web apps for their documents?As the old saying goes, denial is not a river in Egypt!

Microsoft has launched another service that has gone slightly under the radar compared to their live mesh service, called Microsoft Online Services. Once again, it has nothing to do with an online version of Office nor does it have anything to do with online storage like their other services. What this service offers might actually become more important to their cloud strategy than even Live Mesh. In essence, Microsoft is offering to host several critical business services in the cloud such as Exchange (email), Dynamic CRM (SalesForce clone), Live Meeting (WebEx clone), SharePoint (Enterprise Content Management) and live messenger service. I would look for a hosted Microsoft Project service to come along soon as well. This is huge news that has gotten very little coverage for some reason.

Despite a hefty price tag ($500-$600) for Office licenses and all of the capable open source alternatives available today, companies are still sticking with microsoft Office as their de facto standard. If they ever launch a web based Microsoft Office suite of apps then they will solidify their throne in the business world.

Google has always had its head in the clouds so their strategy shouldn't be new to anyone. They apparently believe in the shotgun approach as they continue to scatter themselves all over the place.

At the center of it all is their venerable search engine. Then there's the ever popular GMail for email and GoogleTalk for live chat. Then there is Google Documents and spreadsheets which is a web version of Microsoft Office and fully compatible with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In an effort to provide offline desktop capabilities to their web apps they released Google Gears.

Their OpenSocial platform for web apps and Android for the mobile platform are ambitious initiatives that play a major part in their cloud strategy. Both are risky gambles as they rely significantly upon majority acceptance by the application development communities for the web and mobile platform. If they embrace these platforms then Google reigns supreme. If they don't, then all bets are off.

The gPhone (google Phone) plays a big part of their cloud plan too. If they can provide the gear and the OS and apps and services then Google is looking pretty again. T-Mobile is set to release the first gphone in the 4th quarter of 2008 so we shall see what happens there.

Google made a big splash when they annouced their Google App Engine for web app hosting to compete with Amazon hosting services. They also released a wiki platform called Google Sites (acquired from jot.com).

Obviously, Google has a plan. I don't think they know what that plan is but by golly they're sticking with it by launching everything they can possible think of. Who knows, maybe something will stick.

In all seriousness, Google has the power and resources to become the ultimate player in the cloud for personal and business services. They just need to develop a detailed plan and implement it one step at a time.

Wild Card Players
There are a few smaller angels in the cloud that have already become major thorns in the sides of Microsoft and Google especially. They are Zoho with their jaw-dropping catalog of web apps and services and Jive Software with their red-hot enterprise collaboration product, ClearSpace.
Zoho's office clone web apps look and feel like Microsoft Office and work online and offline thanks to Google Gears, ironically because it has helped them steal many Google doc users away from Google themselves. ClearSpace has begun to pull increasing numbers of frustrated SharePoint users away from Microsoft's once steel death-grip by offering tons of web 2.0 features and a vastly improved interface. So keep an eye open for these two up there in the clouds.

I guess the perfect way to conclude this piece would be to let the Stones do their thing, huh?

Comments

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Good Post.

For Microsoft, the challenge is to move to the cloud without cannibalizing their existing business. Google, with their Apps, I guess it is more of a consumer focus than business focus. Clearly, Yahoo has been focused on other things.

I'll be interesting to see how these three companies will move from here.

Pai,
I am one of those that stopped using Google apps and "saw the light" at Zoho. The Notebook and Planner are fantastic. Waiting to see how this "cloud" stuff works in my Apple life, too!

Thanks for the great post.

Good solid post. Breaking down the strategies over their tactics helps folks see what's going on and where it's going.

Thx for the comparisons here Pai and overall take down -- great, thorough post. I haven't played around with Zoho either and your remarks reminded me to do so.

...and a favorite line: "...denial is not a river in Egypt!"

I've tried Zoho. At first it really seemed great, but with time, the clunky interface did me in.

That "just right" suite still doesn't exist. If the 37 signals designers would team up with the Zoho developers, together they'd blow all three of the big guys out of the water.

Chances of that happening?

The comments to this entry are closed.

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