The impending "Island of Misfit Tech Companies"

If you snickered at Apple's "walled garden" approach to controlling the hardware and software stack, there should be no doubts to its effectiveness now.

If you snickered at Apple’s “walled garden” approach to controlling the hardware and software stack, there should be no doubts to its effectiveness after what was probably the craziest month of consumer technology news we’ve seen in a while. 

The month of June has indicated that Microsoft and Google believe the Apple approach to consumer technology is the most profitable one. It also means enterprises have to take note of the shifting winds. 

The month began with Apple’s WWDC and unveiling of iOS 6. Then, Google bought QuickOffice.  Microsoft announced they no longer cared about OEMs with its new Surface tablet. It seems promising but still has too many unanswered questions surrounding it. They bought enterprise social network Yammer for $1.2 billion. They introduced Windows Phone 8.

The month ended, more or less, yesterday with Google’s unveiling of Android 4.1 (slim pickings for enterprise improvements), a significant upgrade to search, a new tablet, Sergey Brin’s cyborg glasses – admitted that skydiving stunt was pretty awesome -- and some sort of weird cloud media streaming player that no one has the foggiest understanding of its purpose. 

All of this news indicates that Apple, Microsoft and Google want to offer consumers and business three screens and a cloud. They want you using their cellphone, tablet, cloud storage and productivity apps. And hey, if they can eventually phase out the cable companies and control your TV screen, all the better for them. 

These companies want you dependent upon a branded account identity for accessing email, purchasing apps and media from their stores, and for social interactions outside of Facebook (not so much Apple on this front). They want you to use its browser for surfing the web, their mapping technology, they want you using its search product to mine relevant data and if you can’t get to a search engine you might as well use a voice assistant like Siri. You get the gist. 

The worry here is what will happen to people using a Windows PC at work, an iPad for on-the-go and perhaps an Android phone because of BYOD? Are we going to be living and working in a world where those devices, apps and data don’t play nice with one another? Where only those three technology companies matter (Facebook and Amazon will be hanging out in an offshore Atoll in this over-arching analogy)?

I sure hope not. And to be honest I don’t feel like that will ever become the case since IBM, Oracle, Citrix and VMware have too much invested in enterprise technology to just rollover. But, after this month, it’s pretty clear the strategy Apple, Microsoft and Google intend to execute in the coming years -- conquer consumers by controlling three screens and a cloud, force enterprises and IT to adapt. 

What’s perhaps most disappointing is that the island approach feels old and tired—quite unlike the version of consumerization we get from modern SaaS companies: they're not trying to control an entire stack, but rather integrating and partnering with each other through APIs. 


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