Friday, October 14, 2011

Google as a Platform (not)

Google vs Amazon (again). @davidsprott reckons Steve Yegge's rant is spot on. Steve Yegge is a software engineer who used to work for Amazon and now works for Google, despite the supposedly accidental publication of a long and opinionated rant (his words) complaining that

'[what] Google doesn't do well is Platforms. We don't understand platforms. We don't "get" platforms.'

(For more context, see Steve Yegge's second thoughts on Google+).

Waddya mean, Google doesn't get platforms? Surely Google is a major player in platform, especially in the so-called Cloud? Dion Hinchcliffe sounded fairly convinced when he was Comparing Amazon's and Google's Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Offerings back in April 2008.

"Amazon and Google have strategically built up an extensive set of services over the last few years and have made some very interesting assumptions that will determine who their customers are (consumers, startups, enterprises) and what type of business models can sit on top of them (advertising, subscriptions, cheapest source of outsourced computing resources). ... Google and Amazon have emerged to be the leaders in this space while Microsoft, IBM, and especially Oracle and SAP are either well behind or have unclear plans to enter the PaaS space. Both of these companies formed their DNA around the world of the Web and deeply understand how to leverage the enormous strengths of the Web platform."

So what went wrong? This guy (Yegge) sure knows one thing, says @pardhas, building platforms is not just collecting your products on one plate. For Yegge, platforms is about eating your own dogfood. Not just Amazon, but also Facebook - hey, even Microsoft understands platforms better than Google.

But there is something missing from Steve Yegge's account. He sees the (lack of) platform from an engineering perspective, but what he doesn't talk about is the enterprise/ecosystem perspective.

@davidsprott's tweet ends with the formula "SOA + platforms = competitive advantage".  David and I have written a great deal about ecosystem SOA and ecosystem architecture, and we have long credited Jeff Bezos of Amazon as someone who "gets" ecosystem.

Among other things, "getting ecosystem" means understanding the variety of ways in which the social complexity of collaborations create value for the customer, and therefore how, from the perspective of the supplier, platform architectures can capture indirect value. See Philip Boxer's presentation on supporting social complexity in collaborative enterprises, as well as my presentation on Next Generation Enterprise Architecture, both from the recent Unicom EA Forum in London.

As I pointed out in my recent VPEC-T analysis of Google, Google is adopting a positional strategy - capturing some territory and defending it against its competitors. Amazon and Apple have shifted towards open source competition on their platforms (relational strategy) while Google is still closed-source.

In his post on Tomorrow's Networked Economy, @JDeragon praises Google+ for becoming an integrated portal. Er, wasn't that AOL's strategy? And Yahoo's for that matter? Maybe Google has greater ability to execute this strategy than they did, but it still looks more like yesterday's networked economy. Have you read Kevin Kelly's book?

For Apple's shift from product to platform, see my post on Disney, Pixar, Apple and Jobs from February 2006.

For the shift from positional stategy to relational strategy, see Philip Boxer and Bernie Cohen, Triply Articulated Modelling of the Anticipatory Enterprise and Philip Boxer, Architectures that integrate  differentiated behaviours.

For more on Ecosystem SOA and Ecosystem Architecture, please browse the Ecosystem category on this blog. Here are some further links.

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders (via Geekwire) (April 2011)
Bob Ellinger, Enterprise SOA vs Ecosystem SOA (April 2011)
Vaughan Merlyn, From Enterprise Architecture to Ecosystem Architecture (July 2008)
David Sprott, Introducing Smart Ecosystem Architecture (October 2009)

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