Social first-quarter 2014: analysis and outlook

1Executive Summary

A great deal has happened in a very short quarter. But to make sense of the events in these few months I step back and lay out the 30,000-foot view that frames all of my research. We are living in a new economy, and the forces that dominate it impact all business, our society, and us as individuals. I then shift to a more conventional look back on the events and trends of the quarter.

Key highlights from the first quarter in the future of work and social technologies space include these:

  • The post-normal world of business. Major forces are impacting business, media, and society and the role that new work technologies and practices are having on business, the workforce, and the individual. Driven by global economic shifts, the rupturing of the social contract, and the rise of a freelance workforce, what results is an “unstable equilibrium.” Disrupting forces companies must harness include computing scale and ubiquitous connectivity, and the 3D — distributed, decentralized, and discontinuous — workforce.

  • If this is the future, why are we still talking about files? The central role of files is not diminishing, and in fact, files are more important than ever as file sync-and-share becomes the core element of a distributed virtual file system that underlies everyone’s individual and group work. The leading vendors are caught in a battle of commoditization and differentiation, and the playing field is becoming very level. The trend is toward a free baseline of service, with the fees coming from enterprise functionality and connecting with others, with the files as shared artifacts embedded in social and work relationships.

  • Apps are the razors, and connection will be the blades. The battle around what is generally called productivity or office apps is coming to a dramatic head, as Microsoft finally released Office for iPad and matched the zero pricing that Google and then Apple adopted. What the company loses on the apps it hopes to regain in monthly fees for services that allow for users to collaborate around documents and the activities in which the documents find context.

This quarterly wrap-up analyzes these events and trends, and provides a near-term outlook for the next 18 to 24 months.

Thumbnail image courtesy of amanaimagesRF/Thinkstock.

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst Gigaom Research

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