Google, The Platform

Listening to Google CEO Eric Schmidt talk about the importance of a “new platform” while noting that “enterprise-focused” engineers are a small percentage of the company’s engineering team, I flashed back to 1984.

When Apple introduced the Macintosh with that Ridley Scott commercial, the company was making a statement about the “cultural implications of personal computers.” Apple’s deliberate shunning of IT departments, Steve Jobs’ goal of democratizing technology, the 1984 slogan “The Computer For The Rest of Us”, the 1998 slogan “Think Different” — each are examples of a company positioned as the alternative to “the enterprise.”

For most of the 25 succeeding years, that positioning has been an uphill battle. The protagonists? First IBM, then Microsoft — which replaced IBM as “the enterprise” platform-of-choice — because most computers were bought by “the enterprise” not by the consumer. Last year, global laptop sales exceeded desktop sales for the first time, thanks in large part to consumer (not enterprise) demand for netbooks. Apple, which announced a shift in focus to laptops in 2003, has 75 percent of the laptop market for machines costing at least a grand. Yes, some of these machines are in “the enterprise” but they represent another cultural break on how personal computers are perceived and used.

Then there are smart phones.

In 2008, we bought 173.6 million smartphone ‘units’, according to PhoneMag. We’ll buy 159 million laptops this year, says The Guardian. Analysts right and left point to smartphones and mobile devices as the future of the Internet (and thus the future of computing).

Mobile is clearly computing’s next phase, and Google’s introduction of Android (a “platform”) and Chrome (a “platform”) might be viewed, one day, in the same historical light as Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh: paradigm-shift time.

Its rise has been phenomenal and, some say, unmatched. In 10 years, Google grew from being the new kid on the blog to “number seven in global brand power,” according to Gartner analyst Whit Andrews. Inquiries about Google from IT professionals are at an all-time high, according to Hung LeHong, even though Schmidt says Google doesn’t think about the market segments like the analysts do, because the line between “enterprise” and “personal” is disappearing.

Google is on track to dethrone Microsoft, which seems caught by incumbent organization paralysis in the face of disruption (Christensen). MSFT today: $27.60, trending down. GOOG: $536.71, trending up. Oh, IBM? $123.53, trending down. And AAPL, $188.85, trending down.

Listen to this snippet, where Schmidt talks about Google and “the enterprise”:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt At Gartner Symposion – Full Interview

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