Social second-quarter 2014: analysis and outlook

1Executive Summary

The second quarter of 2014 represents an inflection point for work technology. Announcements and product unveilings made in this quarter indicate serious ramifications for the near-term and long-term future of work. We’re now transitioning to a new economic model where the exploding scale of both mobile and cloud has shifted real value to the services that connect us. At the same time they are decreasing the costs associated with capabilities formerly treated as added-value apps that are now treated as foundational. This is upending what has come before, invalidating many of the premises of the desktop-and-server era of computing as we careen into the era of mobile and cloud.

Key highlights from this report include:

  • Only Apple. Tim Cook said at the recent WWDC, “Apple engineers platforms, devices, and services together. We do this so that we can create a seamless experience for our users that is unparalleled in the industry. This is something only Apple can do.” Is that true? Probably so, and Google is likely the only near competitor. What are the implications of the announcements made at WWDC vis-a-vis work technologies? Big changes ahead, as the new iOS, and to a lesser extent the new Mac OS X, represent a new generation of operating system with enormous implications for all members of the Apple ecosystem. A major example is the iCloud Drive, which completely rethinks the mess that was the original iCloud and creates what might be the Dropbox killer.
  • The changing economics of work technology infrastructure. When we buy a smartphone, tablet, or PC today we aren’t buying the physical device, really. We are instead buying into a distributed platform of services and a network of apps and media. We are becoming a part of an ecosystem and we need all of the ecosystems parts to get the value implicit in the price of entry. And those pieces aren’t all on the device: They are in the cloud — in the services provided to communicate and connect with others. And increasingly, some parts of the equation that used to cost a lot, like operating systems, productivity apps, and file storage, are now trending toward zero cost.
  • Follow the money. Looking at funding events, acquisitions, quarterly results, and product line shutdowns can reveal a lot and support trend analysis. The series A funding of the conversational tool Slack tells us a lot about where business communications are headed. Cisco’s shutdown of Webex Social indicates the trouble with conventional enterprise “collaboration,” especially when juxtaposed with the rumor of an enterprise solution from Facebook called Facebook at Work. In the world of file sync-and-share, Box and Dropbox are moving forward on their funding plans, and Dropbox is using $500 million of debt financing to build out Dropbox for Business aggressively and acquire a long list of startups, ramping up into a platform player.

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 Teun van den Dries/Thinkstock.

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Relevant Analyst
Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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