In the last year, Google has stampeded toward the enterprise. With advancements in Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, improved security, and incentive pricing; it’s obvious that Google is working hard to build out its portfolio of enterprise customers.
Another product that Google has been making more accessible to its business customers is its Cloud Platform. While Google has added value with new features, it is still uncertain whether or not it will be able to compete in a market dominated by Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.
The Google Cloud Platform is Google’s infrastructure-as-a-service where users can host and build scalable web applications. The Cloud Platform is technically a group of tools that cover the gamut of what most people need to build a business online. Currently, these are the tools that make up the Cloud Platform:
- Google App Engine
- Google Compute Engine
- Google Cloud Storage
- Google Cloud Datastore
- Google Cloud SQL
- Google BigQuery
- Google Cloud Endpoints
- Google Cloud DNS
Brian Goldfarb, head of marketing for the Google Cloud Platform, said that Google is working to leverage its “history and investments” in data centers and data processing technology to bring what they have learned to the public. The most exciting part for Goldfarb is the breadth of possibilities that the infrastructure provides for businesses.
“The beauty of being an infrastructure provider is that the use cases are, essentially, limitless,” Goldfarb said.
At the 2014 Google I/O developer conference keynote, Urs Hölzle and Greg DeMichillie announced a few more developer tools for Cloud Platform users. Google Cloud Dataflow is a way to create data pipelines that succeeds MapReduce. They also introduced a few minor tools such as Cloud Save, Cloud Debugger, and Cloud Trace.
According to James Staten, an analyst at Forrester, Google has been building its cloud offerings out for a while, but it has struggled to differentiate its products from its competitors.
“They continue to unveil some interesting things for developers, particularly those that are doing big data, which seems to be their only major differentiation as a cloud platform right now. So, they’re building on that,” Staten said.
When it comes to the numbers that Forrester has on cloud platform users, Google isn’t at the bottom of the list, but they are no where near the top five because of its lack of differentiation.
According to Goldfarb, however, Google differentiates itself in three key ways:
1. Price and performance. Google offers automatic discounting and unique aspects in its business model for the Cloud Platform.
2. Technical capability. “We are a cloud first company,” Goldfarb said. He notes that Google builds tools for their engineers to work on cloud production, which then get translated to the public-facing products.
3. Innovation. Customers will be the first to receive what Goldfarb calls “unique competitive advantages,” new technical features as soon as they are created by Google. For example, when speaking of the new Cloud Dataflow he said, “There is nothing like it in the world.”
Still, one of the primary issues is that the Google Cloud Platform wasn’t initially geared to accommodate bigger enterprises.
As a platform-as-a-service, it primarily appealed to startups as it only supported Python and didn’t have as robust an offering as needed by bigger companies. According to Staten, enterprises code not only in Python, but in PHP, Ruby, and Java as well; and if you only support one of those, it’s not very appealing.
Of course, Google has grown to accommodate other languages, and the appeal has gone up slightly; but, Staten said that Google still only has the basics. He said the real value for cloud platforms today is the ecosystem surrounding the infrastructure, and Google doesn’t yet have the ecosystem around the the Cloud Platform that it needs to be competitive.
“The battle is no longer around base infrasture-as-a-service,” Staten said. “It’s not about how many data centers you have, how fast those compute instances are and so forth. It’s all a battleground now around the services that are available above and beyond that platform and, more importantly, the ecosystem around those services.”
This is part of the reason why enterprise customers go to AWS or Azure. They go to those platforms because their peers are using it. They can draw on the experiences of their colleagues and peers for advice and best practices. Staten also notes that there are tons of available partners that many enterprises already know, and are already comfortable with. Some businesses are simply more comfortable working with companies such as Amazon, IBM, RackSpace, and Microsoft.
Still, some companies do trust their cloud offerings to Google. While its portfolio may not include as many Fortune 500 companies as some of its competitors, Google still boasts the likes of Khan Academy, Rovio, Gigya, Pulse, and Snapchat.
“Our fundamental goal with partners in the ecosystem is to empower them,” Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb noted that working with its partner ecosystem and engaging the open source community are some of Google’s highest priorities. He also believes that the heavy focus on open source is also a differentiator for Google among it competitors.
The first step, Staten said, is for Google to make a play around it’s existing products. For an ecosystem to grow and flourish, Google will need to give potential Cloud Platform customers a reason to use their other products.
“Right now if I want to build Android applications, or I want to extend the Google applications, or I want to take advantage of any Google technologies, there’s not a compelling reason for me to do that on their Cloud Platform,” he said. “In fact, it’s going to be easier, and more effective, for me to do that on Amazon or any of the other cloud platforms that are out there.”
Conversely, Google also needs to focus on getting companies that are using its other products to use the Cloud Platform as well. Google needs a sticky value proposition if they want a strong enterprise appeal. Staten mentioned that this could play out as a suite offering or something similar.
It’s not that Google has a poor reputation among business customers. The bigger issue is that most of these incumbent enterprise partners have built a deeper trust among the enterprise by working with them for so long. In order to further build trust, Google will need to take a serious look at its ad-heavy revenue model.
Staten said, “the enterprise hates advertising. So, they’re very much on the antithesis of the Google historical model.” Which means that Google will have to change its approach to accommodate more enterprise customers, so that it’s known as more than just an advertising company. That could even serve to help diversity Google’s revenue model.
Google has done a good job, so far, with much of its pricing and aggressiveness going after deals, but there are some things it can do to better its interactions with the enterprise.
“The biggest thing for Google is understanding that having a relationship with an enterprise is way different than having a relationship with a consumer,” Staten said.
What Staten believes is that Google doesn’t sell like an enterprise sales organization. Enterprise customers don’t want to operate within a consumer-style sales model. Business customers value things like a specific, named sales rep that they can easily contact.
Enterprise customer also tend to be more apt to go where they can get customized support. They need customer support that doesn’t involve getting in line behind thousand of consumers with the same questions, and they, rightfully, expect the potential for custom SLAs. But, according to Goldfarb, Google recognizes the difference between enterprise and consumer customers.
“We’ve done a lot of the last 12 months to build out or enterprise sales and services support,” Goldfarb said.
Regarding enterprise customers of the Cloud Platform, Google offers a technical account management team with the potential for business customers to get connected to a specific, named sales representative. Goldfarb also mentioned a 24/7 multi-language support system and a team of more than 1,000 people dedicated to handling enterprise accounts.
According to Staten, Google certainly can compete with AWS and Azure, but they have some catching up to do if they want to be truly competitive.
“I think they are making some progress, but they probably are not making it as fast as they think they need to in this market,” Staten said. “What they have to do is balance catching up with Amazon, with differentiating their offering. That balance is tricky, and it’s not entirely obvious where that balance is.”
What do you think? Do you think the Google Cloud Platform can compete with products like AWS and Azure? Do you think Google is doing enough to accommodate enterprise customers?
Skype ID: lina_deveikyte
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
There has been a lot of talk about the dirge sounding for the Firefox browser. With a marked nosedive in market share (roughly 15%), the one-time king of the browse war has now fallen into third place (behind Internet Explorer and Chrome). As most pundits are scratching their heads, I’m fairly certain that there’s a clear reason for this change:
The 15% market share applies only to desktop browsers. Once you move to mobile… all bets are off. But why? What has shifted to cause Firefox to drop so sharply? Is it a bad product? Honestly, to the majority of users (I’m talking “average user” here), a browser is a browser is a browser. The biggest difference to the average user is the use of “Favorites” over “Bookmarks.” Since most users wouldn’t even know Firefox from Internet Explorer, how could this change have happened?
Again, I say… Google.
Actually, I should be more specific and say Chrome — or even better, Chrome OS and Android.
From November 2013 to the end of the year, a reported 21% of all laptops sold were Chromebooks. Worldwide, Android takes nearly 81% of the mobile market share. That’s a LOT of Google-based browsers out there. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of logic to assume a vast percentage of those users would have been, otherwise, using Firefox.
Let me present myself a case in point. For the longest time, I was a devout Firefox user. But then I discovered a few of the Chrome apps/extensions (such as Tweetdeck) and added Chrome to my Linux desktop. Then I adopted a Chromebook as a laptop. Since I really only do two things on a laptop (write and browse), it made perfect sense. Add to this the fact that my smartphone platform has been Android for what seems like forever, plus the mobile version of Firefox is dreadful, and you have the makings for a typical migration from Firefox to Chrome.
Let’s be honest — as long as the browser gets the job done, it doesn’t matter which browser you use.
- Unless you’re on a Chromebook
- Or on Android
- Or you depend on Google Apps
You can see the pattern here, right? It’s like third-party politics in the United States. Many people don’t vote for third parties because it takes away votes from the party they once championed. In this case — every person using Chrome is one less person using Firefox. Why?
Caution: generalization coming…
Most people who use Internet Explorer simply don’t know that the product they’re using is inferior to every other product of its kind (either that or they depend on a site that was written ONLY for IE). So, there’s little to no chance they’ll jump ship to either Firefox or Chrome.
So, what is Mozilla to do? Well, they’re busy focusing on the Firefox OS, which is akin to Ubuntu focusing on the Ubuntu Phone — it’s detracting from what they’ve always done really well in exchange for jumping into a ring with two of the heaviest hitters in the history of the game — Android and iOS.
And then there’s that advertising deal with Google that’s about to expire. The majority of Mozilla’s income is from that deal, and Google has less reason to continue on with that search agreement. Google no longer needs the advertising real estate from a browser suffering from a possible slow death. Should Google pull this, Mozilla will have to pull off a miracle to stay in the fight.
However, there’s good news. You can’t forget that Firefox is an open-source browser. That means, even if Firefox were to die, another batch of forks would appear. So, even if Google Chrome were to knock Firefox out of the ring, more contenders will appear to take up the gloves. But even a horde of forks are not likely to pull Firefox from the slow Chrome burn. Google isn’t going anywhere but up. As Chromebooks and Android continue to take over the mobile planet (and users become less tethered to their desks), Firefox will continue to suffer.
Firefox is still a quality product. But like Internet Explorer, it’s facing a foe that’s stronger, faster, and more agile. That new opponent is poised to take over nearly everything it touches. Fortunately (for users, not the competition), that new foe offers a stellar product on every platform (Linux, Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS). Chrome is the only browser on the planet that can make that claim (as Chrome is the only browser that will run on Chrome OS) – a claim that’s becoming ever more important in a world gone mad for mobile.
I don’t have a prediction for Firefox. Will it die? Will it become an “arm” of Google? Will it get a second wind and, thus, a second life? No one really knows at this point. If I had to make a guess, I’d say both Firefox and IE will fall to Chrome. The difference is that IE is embedded into the psyche of many users, so it won’t suffer as much as Firefox.
The gloves are off and Chrome is set to rumble. How do you think this fight will end? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Skype ID: kristinakozlova
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
For many Android owners, the 4.4.3 update has yet to hit (though it is slowly rolling out — when you will receive the update will depend upon your carrier and device). Although the new feature list isn’t epic in length, what it brings to the table will have a lot of users happy… quite happy, actually. This is especially so for users who frequently snap photos with their device and/or record audio.
Aesthetics get little in the way of an upgrade. There is a slight tweak to the Dialer app, but that’s the only change to the UI you’ll readily notice.
The short list of major changes looks something like this:
- A tweaked Dialer app with a colored Action bar (this is the UI change)
- Contact app (sometimes called People) uses placeholder images, similar to those used by Gmail
- Fixed hissing sound while recording videos (Nexus 5) is fixed
- Fix for LTE connection dropping bug
- Wi-Fi improvements
- Microphone and earphone related changes
There are also a lot of other under-the-hood camera, Bluetooth, and other system-related bug fixes.
The cameras (especially those on Motorola devices) will see numerous improvements. Exposure consistency and flash coloring are dramatically improved. A big change for photo enthusiasts is better low-light handling for the front camera.
Speaking of Motorola devices, Moto X and Moto G owners will find a new app called Motorola Alert. This app will send out periodic messages to select contacts.
Probably the biggest upside to this update is the improvements to security, overall stability, and power profile features. One major update is an optimization to ZRAM support. This allows idle background apps to store data in a compressed RAM partition to free up RAM for applications. There’s also a low-RAM API that improves performance on devices with as little as 512 MB of RAM (by using more aggressive memory management). Finally, an experimental Java runtime (called ART) improves application performance over the current Dalvik runtime.
On the downside, at least for Nexus 5 owners, the mm-qcamera-daemon bug (this is a bug that caused the camera to quickly drain the device battery) has not been fixed. The update also does not fix the LED Notification for missed calls (which has been plaguing many devices for some time now).
Android 4.4.3 is primarily a continuation of bug fixing for KitKat. However, don’t let the lack of UI changes fool you… the 4.4.3 update will go a long way to improve the performance and stability of your device. So, when can you expect the rollout to your device?
- GPE versions of the HTC One M7, Galaxy S4, HTC One M8, and the Sony Z Ultra should already have the update
- Sprint users with Nexus 5 devices should be seeing the update soon
- All other devices should see the update in the coming weeks
As with any Android update, predicting when a device will receive the new software is like predicting the weather — it’s hit and miss (and most often wrong). Every supported device should have the update available in the coming weeks. I can tell you that, as of this writing, Verizon HTC and Motorola devices, as well as AT&T Motorola devices, do not have the update available.
Have you received your 4.4.3 update? If so, has your Android device performance and reliability improved? What would you like to see in upcoming Android updates? Share your ideas in the discussion thread below.