April 30 2012 12:00 AM

Last week, Google announced Google Drive as a solution to store, share and synchronize content across multiple devices. Big deal? Yes, this could be a very big deal. Why? Here's the deal: Up until now, Google has addressed the enterprise by attempting to displace two of the most deeply entrenched applications, email and productivity. Let's face it, email is big, messy and expensive to move. Not to mention risky. Doesn't mean organizations don't do it, they just will do it on their own time and terms. And that's just email. Want to take Microsoft Office away from me? Pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I'm happy to use Google Apps for certain stuff, but I need my Office. So basically, until Drive, Google was attempting to move some pretty tough stuff. Their addressable market was small firms (some of whom have and will grow large) and really forward-thinking organizations that were willing to make a pretty dramatic change. Large, risk-averse enterprises? Not so much.

Then came Google Drive. Content storage is in the midst of a massive upheaval. Three indicators:

  1. Users are becoming increasingly dependent on Dropbox for file synchronization, and IT is not always happy about it. Geez, I just want to have a file I start on my laptop at work available to peek at on my smartphone on the train home. Oh yeah, I also want it on my tablet while I'm at home watching Suburgatory. And, I may want to point a colleague to it. Sounds reasonable. IT, you don't want me to use Dropbox. Watcha got instead?
  2. The cloud is a great place to put content. It's available anywhere (as in without having to VPN in). I also have a content problem at work. File shares suck. Email attachments are worse. The cloud can be cheap, differentiated and provide whole new capabilities like making content available for integration with enterprise cloud applications. Don't believe me? Check out the growth of Box in the enterprise.
  3. We're investing massively in new content management systems that are designed to store and collaborate around standard business content. See SharePoint. Not the same thing? True enough. SharePoint is a much broader solution. However, according to Forrester data, the top deployed workloads for SharePoint are collaboration and content management. Expect Google Drive to go right after that.

So with Drive, Google has their first chance to come in without necessarily needing to replace something else. They can also be the darling of IT for providing something users really want and will get value from. They can also really put downward price pressure on the market. Oh yeah, they can also really apply unique value to content through that search thing they do so well.

Here's what has to happen: They need to de-couple Google Drive from the broad offering so that I don't need to have email muddle the conversation. I'll visit email when I'm ready, and if you're already storing my content, you'll likely be on the short list when that happens. Unbundling has not been their strategy to date and will require packaging, pricing and interface changes. Then, make Google Plus available for the enterprise and bundle it with Google Drive. Content and social go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and like content storage, there is a lot of enterprise social market waiting to be gobbled up.

Google has been successful to date in the enterprise. No doubt they're making money. However, they have not yet made the move to that short list of strategic enterprise suppliers. That requires gobbling up lots of market share early, and this could be their chance.

ROB KOPLOWITZ is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. His current research focuses on core elements of collaboration strategy, including collaboration platforms, workspaces and enterprise social strategy. For more, view Mr. Koplowitz's analyst profile.

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