The intersection of social media and the cloud

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The competition for the next wave of enterprise computing has heated up since Microsoft announced its Windows Azure strategy a month ago. While the jury is out in some quarters about Microsoft’s ability to actually deliver the reliability, security, and even the interoperability that is promised, the timetable has accelerated the plans of competitors and forced some to define themselves in terms of the cloud at a dangerous moment.

Sun Microsystems has been under particular pressure to realign; analysts and even Sun employees such as Tim Bray have been outspoken in their pleas for Sun’s executive team to jettison unprofitable ventures in favor of some kind of cloud strategy. CEO Jonathan Schwartz has hinted in recent months of some wood behind what Sun calls its Grid effort, and will this week roll out Sun’s JavaFX 1.0 front end technology to compete with Flash/Air and Silverlight.

JavaFX could be one of the casualties if Sun decides to pare technologies along with the 18% of its employees it’s trimming. Other cuts might include the NetBeans development environment, which has kept pace with or even bettered Eclipse in quality but not in uptake, and OpenOffice, the free Office replacement. Unfortunately for Sun, Google Docs has stolen some of the strategic thunder with an on-demand product from a company that can afford it.

Google is feeling some pressure as well, as its odd messaging around a Gmail Video chat plug-in reveals. Though the company has made a big deal about only supporting open Web technologies, they have much less to say about the use of proprietary technologies in the video plug-in. Coming at the same time that CEO Eric Schmidt attacks Azure as a way “to gain enough share in cloud computing to force other people to use its standards,” the use of Flash and the reluctance to answer direct questions about it seem disingenuous, something Google has steered clear of as it builds out its own standards such as Chrome and Android.

Schmidt’s attack also suggests that Google has assessed Microsoft’s cloud effort and found it substantial enough to warrant a political rather than technical challenge. Yet the video plug-in also implies an attempt to improve the “rich” aspects of its Ajax framework as online versions of Office reach beta in the next year. Ironically, Microsoft’s Live Mesh/Silverlight combo will work on Windows, Mac, and Linux (via Novell’s Moonlight port), while no Linux plug-in has been announced for the video code.

Apple’s cloudish efforts may get a boost when the company releases its Push notification technology, allowing a rumored over the air MobileMe synchup with Notes. Not only would that bring in the rest of the enterprise email world, it would also deliver the necessary infrastructure for iPhone developers to release useful micromessaging clients. Qik.com’s new support for transcoded iPhone-compatible versions of Qik videos would fit nicely in such clients, bypassing Flash and Silverlight in the process and blunting pressure from Android. Without Google’s Web religion and with a burgeoning revenue model, Apple can afford to move to the cloud at its own pace.

At a time when startups are tamped down to survival mode, the cloud seems the province of the wealthy. By betting early and building just ahead of the startup market, Amazon has joined the gorillas at the table. Sun remains a player if only because the various acquisition or breakup scenarios seem more unlikely. And Jonathan Schwartz’ ability to dance with Microsoft when he needs it may come in handy as Azure nears the marketplace. Somebody will provide the big freaking Webtone switch for these cloud data centers, and storage is the new black.

Google and Microsoft are alone at the top of the pyramid. The usual caveats don’t hold much water when looked at objectively. For a company pigeon-holed as making it up as they go along with no cross team coordination, the Google desktop is an organic work in progress with new components and management tools emerging week by week. Building out via XMPP from the Gmail hub is allowing users to orchestrate realtime services into a consumable stream and reliable archives available cross-client.

The rogue video plug-in may violate Google’s messaging, but the first time you nail up a video chat with someone on a PC from your Mac, you’ll know something substantial has occurred. In a world where the console real estate is measured in pixels, I’m still running Skype as a legacy app but switching whenever I see the telltale camera icon in Gchat. With calendar, docs, mail, XMPP, video, and audio all on one screen, the momentum is considerable.

For its part, Microsoft is no longer at war with itself. That may have been the only way to manage the company in the face of no opposition, but for the first time Redmond is competing more with Google and to a lesser extent, Amazon, than between versions of Windows or Office. The Google console may lack persistence and offline aspects, but the video plug-in signals a much more pragmatic approach than many have expected. By the same token, Microsoft is far less encumbered with its response to Google’s attack than we thought before Azure was revealed.

That’s because users don’t perceive Microsoft as the dominant force in computing any more. When I open Gmail, I’m conditioned to expect the latest addition. The more time I spend in the realtime world, the more I look to solutions that will fit into the environment I have chosen. When micromessaging proves too fragmented for XMPP, I add the Twhirl Air client to present a more alert-driven version of the various feeds. In other words, my usage reaches a point where more professional tools are necessary, and I integrate RIA capabilities to finesse the transition.

But what happens next? For now, it’s unlikely I’ll switch off the Gmail desktop. There’s no competitive Ajax client, but I have no special allegiance to Air should a more robust Silverlight client emerge. My iPhone could care less where the back end lives that synchs via the new Push notification engine, so I can choose between Mesh and whatever Google releases to compete with XMPP on the desktop. Google has to compete not only with Microsoft but Apple in that arena; I’d love to integrate GCal and missing features of Gmail on the iPhone, but not until Push is released will it happen, and perhaps not quickly even then.

Micromessaging is not the only area where Microsoft can make inroads, but it’s easily the most significant because of the requirement for open standards. Even though those are still unsettled, Microsoft has carefully mandated open access to its platform and has no wiggle room out of that contract given its Borg baggage. Interestingly, Google has opened a hole into the Gmail console with the ability to add widgets. Imagine Office Online docs available on the Gmail console, or a Twitter feed that interleaves docs and appointments from both stores.

The intersection of social media and the cloud will drive most of this strategic realignment. The argument that cloud computing will fail because we won’t trust our bits outside our direct control ignores two truths: the economics outweigh the potential liabilities, and we have no idea where our data is in any case. The more valuable our cloud data becomes, the less likely we will be to complain about unauthorized access. The more social graph data is baked into these information sharing transactions, the more valuable the shared data will become.

  • Robert

    When microsoft does something, it will end up like this:

    http://cid-6fccfabeb97dfd60.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!6FCCFABEB97DFD60!106.entry

    Why does microsoft promote illegal stuff and allow people be spammed
    by such things as these…

    Microsoft doing anything is bad… All it does is try to make use
    of its huge install base to push crap like Azure to people who
    don’t even need it.

    Speaking of standards… They’ll come up with some special
    broken ware which don’t follow standards and are a pain in the
    ass to program on, and the programmer won’t have much of a
    choice cos most of the users are stuck on a windows desktop…

    (Yeah we didn’t have a choice long time ago, when windows
    shipped with every PC as OEM software and made the PC
    more expensive and less usable… Now we have… We can
    chose any of the free/open source OSes which are more
    stable n cool anyways… I ditched Windows for Linux about
    9 years ago, and yeah that time enlightenment had all the
    special effects that has been copied by microsoft and put
    into vista recently)

    Because Internet explorer doesn’t keep to standards, even
    a web designer has to program for two kinds of browsers,
    one that keeps to standards and the other is IE. This wastes
    time and money of the developers.

    People don’t you see that anything microsoft makes, is causing
    to work more for less, earn less for more work? Let’s all send
    a message to microsoft by following standards (but not theirs)
    and not doing anything special for broken software from MS…
    Then they would have to follow suit or just go out of business
    soon.

    • ram

      @Robert: that is absurd, knee-jerk nonsense.

      • brian

        @Robert

        Dude…go to hell…

        just because Vista is a flop, does’nt make Microsoft sick…MS has plenty of good and successful products. If you leave out IE/Vista … things are just fine. I have used Visual Studio, Office, XP….by far the one of the best apps ever…!!!! If anyone disagrees, I dont care. Thanks.

        http://www.livbit.com

    • http://www.google.oc.uk Ravisantlani

      True! Agreed! Azure is crap stuff by MS.
      and more true is that i work bloddy hell to align websites one with IE and other with standards

  • Robert

    When microsoft does something, it will end up like this:

    http://cid-6fccfabeb97dfd60.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!6FCCFABEB97DFD60!106.entry

    Why does microsoft promote illegal stuff and allow people be spammed
    by such things as these…

    Microsoft doing anything is bad… All it does is try to make use
    of its huge install base to push crap like Azure to people who
    don’t even need it.

    Speaking of standards… They’ll come up with some special
    broken ware which don’t follow standards and are a pain in the
    ass to program on, and the programmer won’t have much of a
    choice cos most of the users are stuck on a windows desktop…

    (Yeah we didn’t have a choice long time ago, when windows
    shipped with every PC as OEM software and made the PC
    more expensive and less usable… Now we have… We can
    chose any of the free/open source OSes which are more
    stable n cool anyways… I ditched Windows for Linux about
    9 years ago, and yeah that time enlightenment had all the
    special effects that has been copied by microsoft and put
    into vista recently)

    Because Internet explorer doesn’t keep to standards, even
    a web designer has to program for two kinds of browsers,
    one that keeps to standards and the other is IE. This wastes
    time and money of the developers.

    People don’t you see that anything microsoft makes, is causing
    to work more for less, earn less for more work? Let’s all send
    a message to microsoft by following standards (but not theirs)
    and not doing anything special for broken software from MS…
    Then they would have to follow suit or just go out of business
    soon.

    • ram

      @Robert: that is absurd, knee-jerk nonsense.

      • brian

        @Robert

        Dude…go to hell…

        just because Vista is a flop, does’nt make Microsoft sick…MS has plenty of good and successful products. If you leave out IE/Vista … things are just fine. I have used Visual Studio, Office, XP….by far the one of the best apps ever…!!!! If anyone disagrees, I dont care. Thanks.

        http://www.livbit.com

    • http://www.google.oc.uk Ravisantlani

      True! Agreed! Azure is crap stuff by MS.
      and more true is that i work bloddy hell to align websites one with IE and other with standards

  • http://www.nickhodge.com/blog/archives/2772 Ray Ozzie: by Steven Levy | www.nickhodge.com

    […] The intersection of social media and the cloud, Steve Gillmor, TechCrunchIT […]

  • http://www.nickhodge.com/blog/archives/2772 Ray Ozzie: by Steven Levy | www.nickhodge.com

    […] The intersection of social media and the cloud, Steve Gillmor, TechCrunchIT […]

  • ndp

    Nonsense. Blogger of Google is full of spam, virus… Live Space still better. Softwares on Windows usually better… and users have more choices… If Windows become open source now, I’m sure Linux will die tomorrow.

    Work more for less. I don’t agree. Visual Studio is the best IDE in the world. Programing in C# is very fast. You can even drag & drop to build a simple web site. Actually, it’s work less for more.

    IE suck, yes.

    • http://www.google.oc.uk Ravisantlani

      Yes ndp, u r correct on dat, IE Sucks….but i love workin on c# and look forward for better .Net features….

  • ndp

    Nonsense. Blogger of Google is full of spam, virus… Live Space still better. Softwares on Windows usually better… and users have more choices… If Windows become open source now, I’m sure Linux will die tomorrow.

    Work more for less. I don’t agree. Visual Studio is the best IDE in the world. Programing in C# is very fast. You can even drag & drop to build a simple web site. Actually, it’s work less for more.

    IE suck, yes.

    • http://www.google.oc.uk Ravisantlani

      Yes ndp, u r correct on dat, IE Sucks….but i love workin on c# and look forward for better .Net features….

  • http://thesocialmediasecrets.com/2008/11/the-intersection-of-social-media-and-the-cloud/ The intersection of social media and the cloud | thesocialmediasecrets

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  • http://maheshcr.com/blog Mahesh CR

    Steve, an excellent thought piece. I could almost feel the misaligned cogs of understanding, rearrange themselves a little better.

    And interesting picture choice..is the crop duster supposed to stand for Microsoft or Google?

    Thanks!

    • EH

      Neither. Cary Grant stands for “reliability” and the crop-duster is the Internet.

  • http://maheshcr.com/blog Mahesh CR

    Steve, an excellent thought piece. I could almost feel the misaligned cogs of understanding, rearrange themselves a little better.

    And interesting picture choice..is the crop duster supposed to stand for Microsoft or Google?

    Thanks!

    • EH

      Neither. Cary Grant stands for “reliability” and the crop-duster is the Internet.

  • http://socialbang.com/dating Dating 2.0

    Given Google’s dislike of closed technologies I’m surprised it uses Flash as much as it does. Strategically I think it would make sense for Google to support JavaFX with an aim of pushing an open standards client side RIA solution, this strategy could run in parallel to where Chrome is heading.

  • http://socialbang.com/dating Dating 2.0

    Given Google’s dislike of closed technologies I’m surprised it uses Flash as much as it does. Strategically I think it would make sense for Google to support JavaFX with an aim of pushing an open standards client side RIA solution, this strategy could run in parallel to where Chrome is heading.

  • http://www.mindfund.com Adam Lindemann

    Steve, I always think you have some brilliant insight which when understood provides tremendous value add to those that need it. I do however, wish that I did not need to read your posts on average about three times before I truly understand what you are saying. I would not like you to dumb down the content, but I would be tremendously grateful if you could use a more simple and straight forward turn of phrase rather than all the insider jargon.

    • meanguy

      I’ve written angry, drunken emails to ex-wives at 4am that make more sense than Steve Gillmor’s posts.

      Hats off for referencing pyramids, pigeons and using the word “cloudish” however. Trademark that before Tim O’Reilly grabs it.

  • http://www.mindfund.com Adam Lindemann

    Steve, I always think you have some brilliant insight which when understood provides tremendous value add to those that need it. I do however, wish that I did not need to read your posts on average about three times before I truly understand what you are saying. I would not like you to dumb down the content, but I would be tremendously grateful if you could use a more simple and straight forward turn of phrase rather than all the insider jargon.

    • meanguy

      I’ve written angry, drunken emails to ex-wives at 4am that make more sense than Steve Gillmor’s posts.

      Hats off for referencing pyramids, pigeons and using the word “cloudish” however. Trademark that before Tim O’Reilly grabs it.

  • http://cloudwiki.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/the-intersection-of-social-media-and-the-cloud/ The intersection of social media and the cloud « FZI Cloud Computing News Stream

    […] The intersection of social media and the cloud Posted on November 30, 2008 by Markus Klems http://www.techcrunchit.com/2008/11/29/the-intersection-of-social-media-and-the-cloud/ […]

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    […] The intersection of social media and the cloud Posted on November 30, 2008 by Markus Klems http://www.techcrunchit.com/2008/11/29/the-intersection-of-social-media-and-the-cloud/ […]

  • ED ZOFER

    The article doenot have clarity. The first paragraph starts with the ‘Next wave of enterprise computing’ . There is no susbstance on what is the existing or emerging Social media play in it. There is definitely a play of multi-media and multi-channel information consumption and delivery in the enterprise computing whose paradigm is shifting to the cloud (emerging).

    However, the play of ‘Social’ part of the media in the (cloud based) enterprise computing needs a proper treatment/elaboration. May be its too earlier..

    But the

  • ED ZOFER

    The article doenot have clarity. The first paragraph starts with the ‘Next wave of enterprise computing’ . There is no susbstance on what is the existing or emerging Social media play in it. There is definitely a play of multi-media and multi-channel information consumption and delivery in the enterprise computing whose paradigm is shifting to the cloud (emerging).

    However, the play of ‘Social’ part of the media in the (cloud based) enterprise computing needs a proper treatment/elaboration. May be its too earlier..

    But the

  • http://www.sensidea.com Jaafer Haidar

    Mike,

    I’ve been reading TC since June 2005 and although I’ve enjoyed a lot posts, from a business and impact perspective this has got to be the best.

    Our bread and butter is helping large companies understand how the web is moving and the opportunities and challenges present. The Cloud is a hot topic and getting hotter. Security and control is definitely the major concern, but I believe as the gorillas present more complete and solid offerings (AWS is great but Amazon doesn’t have the trusted enterprise pedigree that MS brings to the table), and cloud-only, value-added services and applications are a reality then the cloud will be defacto enterprise infrastructure.

    Imagine being able to have your company create widgets for your instance of Office online that result in an ‘internal’ social productivity suite in the cloud? Not only does the ability to plug in apps to the cloud create a potential consumer marketplace but the intranet is also on the move.

    Thanks,
    Jaafer

    • http://www.sensidea.com Jaafer Haidar

      Oops, sorry….great post STEVE :)

    • EH

      Man, that is quite the string of non-sequiturs. What exactly would constitute a “social productivity suite?”

      The Cloud is about bringing the reliability of the Internet to the world of hard drives, nothing more. This is not a good thing.

  • http://www.sensidea.com Jaafer Haidar

    Mike,

    I’ve been reading TC since June 2005 and although I’ve enjoyed a lot posts, from a business and impact perspective this has got to be the best.

    Our bread and butter is helping large companies understand how the web is moving and the opportunities and challenges present. The Cloud is a hot topic and getting hotter. Security and control is definitely the major concern, but I believe as the gorillas present more complete and solid offerings (AWS is great but Amazon doesn’t have the trusted enterprise pedigree that MS brings to the table), and cloud-only, value-added services and applications are a reality then the cloud will be defacto enterprise infrastructure.

    Imagine being able to have your company create widgets for your instance of Office online that result in an ‘internal’ social productivity suite in the cloud? Not only does the ability to plug in apps to the cloud create a potential consumer marketplace but the intranet is also on the move.

    Thanks,
    Jaafer

    • http://www.sensidea.com Jaafer Haidar

      Oops, sorry….great post STEVE :)

    • EH

      Man, that is quite the string of non-sequiturs. What exactly would constitute a “social productivity suite?”

      The Cloud is about bringing the reliability of the Internet to the world of hard drives, nothing more. This is not a good thing.

  • http://roman.stanek.org/2008/12/01/taking-advantage-of-the-failure-framework/ Taking Advantage of the Failure Framework « Roman Stanek’s Push-Button Thinking

    […] in 1997 and I finally manage to finish it yesterday. Here it is and it is probably very timely as Steve Gillmore speculates on TechCrunch […]

  • http://roman.stanek.org/2008/12/01/taking-advantage-of-the-failure-framework/ Taking Advantage of the Failure Framework « Roman Stanek’s Push-Button Thinking

    […] in 1997 and I finally manage to finish it yesterday. Here it is and it is probably very timely as Steve Gillmore speculates on TechCrunch […]

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    […] [Read more] – Source: TechCrunch by Steve Gillmor on November 29, 2008 […]

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