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The Google enterprise fabric

Second, Google has the magnetism of its ubiquity among the post-1994 cohort. Some recent college graduates want to bring Google solutions into their employers’ organizations. Over time, Google will ride that demographic bulge into enterprise information technology organizations despite the pushback from the incumbent vendors. Because of its subsidizing business model, Google is in no hurry to generate enterprise revenues. As a result, the company just needs to move with measured steps. The Google approach seems to be “why hurry?” Google’s reluctant bride approach exerts market pressure because competitors don’t know what Google will do next.

Headache relief?

Finally,  the economic climate is forcing organizations to rethink the hockey stick costs that some enterprise software vendors impose on their licensees. One CMS vendor finds itself in hot water with a U.S. government agency because of the cost of a system and the lengthy deployment time. The issue is a result of the system’s not performing to the requirements in the statement of work. Enterprises want software that works. As important is the need to get solutions deployed that do not require continuous difficult-to-predict maintenance as well as customization services work. The appeal of a Google-like solution is easing the migraines that traditional enterprise software vendors trigger in some of their corporate clients.

Viewed from that perspective, Google’s push into the enterprise is going to be increasingly disruptive. Let’s look at two examples and then try to glimpse the future Google might be crafting.

Bottom up approach

Google Maps have become synonymous with next-generation applications. In the enterprise with a field sales force, I see increasing evidence that mobile devices that can display Google Maps and other Google information are becoming more commonplace. Apple made an effort to thwart some of Google’s telephony services, but Google continues to gain ground in providing mobile employees with useful information.

The ability to access enterprise content from a mobile device, regardless of telephone company or device manufacturer, means bottom up pressure from employees. Enterprise vendors have traditionally operated from the top down. The bottom up approach with Google Maps is a new competitive threat for incumbent enterprise software vendors. I don’t know how those large vendors are going to deal with a revolution from grassroots.

Next, the Google Wave technology is a moving target. As I write this, Google Wave is a combination of e-mail, search and communications. Google has made some of the code available to anyone under an open source license. Most of the demonstrations of the Wave technology are similar to laboratory experiments. A popular legal podcast called This Week in Law uses Wave to give listeners a real-time dataspace to exchange ideas. Over time, Google Wave could morph into a complement to Google Apps and Google mobile services. The impact of waves is visible over time. That’s how Google Wave may work—eroding IBM’s Lotus Notes and Microsoft’s SharePoint a molecule at a time.

Looking forward to 2010, Google seems to be content with intermittent disruption. The idea is that each product or service perturbs the existing ecosystem of enterprise software. The consequences of disruption are tough to predict. But when cracks appear, those clever enough to spot them can exert more pressure. Like the wave analogy, cracking the foundation can cause change. At first, there is not much risk of collapse. As the months and year pass, the instability of the foundation increases. At some point, the structure built on that foundation can give way.

In 2010, I anticipate Google’s causing some established enterprise software vendors to experience a collapse. The vendor won’t go out of business, but some of the markets on which those incumbents depend may undergo a shift. Google may be the beneficiary of its strategy of disruption. The established enterprise software vendors are in the same precarious position as residents of San Francisco. The big one is coming. No one knows when. But it is coming.

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