Google’s Larry Page realizes that social should be in the operating system

Alexia Tsotsis has a gift for attention-grabbing headlines, and today’s piece on Vic Gundoltra’s hasty departure from Google after leading the push on Google+ since 2011 is no exception. She titles it Google+ Is Walking Dead, which I think is not quite right, although the service is being scaled down dramatically, according to her and Matthew Panzarino’s sources:

According to two sources, Google has apparently been reshuffling the teams that used to form the core of Google+, a group numbering between 1,000 and 1,200 employees. We hear that there’s a new building on campus, so many of those people are getting moved physically, as well — not necessarily due to Gundotra’s departure.
As part of these staff changes, the Google Hangouts team will be moving to the Android team, and it’s likely that the photos team will follow, these people said. Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform, we’re hearing.
Taking Gundotra’s place inside Google will be David Besbris, though we hear that parts of Google+ are under “the person responsible for Chrome,” according to one source. It’s not clear if this is Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Chrome and Android, or why this would happen. “It’s complicated,” our source said. Google PR denies this account.

Google always had a straddle going with Google+, and this is the point at which they are falling back to the best side of the bet. I wrote back in 2011, right after the launch in Life As A Mosaic, Not A Monolith: What Google+ Means:

My natural drift — and I think other people’s too, in time — will be away from massive all-in-one tools, and toward a mosaic of highly specialized apps. Behind this are a pair of twinned trends, major threads in the liquid media theme I have been developing over the past months.
The first is the transition toward connected apps, courtesy of the rise of genius mobile devices (genius = way beyond smart) […].
The flipside of the rise of apps is the fall of the browser. The browser is a kludge, a way to shoehorn the web onto PCs, made necessary because the operating systems around when the web was invented were inward focused: they were all about applications, files and folders on the hard drive. But we have gone far enough toward always-on that we will have dozens of web-aware and web-dependent apps on our genius devices, and only occasionally open the browser for old-time website browsing.
Apps are the tiles of the new mosaic, our composite life online.
And Google+ is a deft straddle, with one foot in the old world and the other in the new. Google+ is currently a browser based system, but it is relatively easy to imagine the core functionality implemented in a next generation Android, and all the tools — like Circles and Hangouts — accessed as complementary apps, along with dozens or hundreds of others built by Google or a growing ecology of developers.
Of course, Apple will respond in kind, and is perhaps a step or two ahead with its Twitter partnership, and its plan to integrate Twitter into iOS 5. So we can expect a similar flowering of iOS 5 apps that build on a core of social capabilities, and that will allow app developers to leverage profiles, following, streams, and other foundational social componentry at the OS level.
By lowering the core elements of sociality into the infrastructure, Google and Apple will be setting the stage for a new generation of app development, and therefore, user experience. Which will mean an acceleration of the transition for us, as users, from monolith to mosaic.
Google+ shows that Google is going to make that transition, and it will be Apple and Google that will be defining the next ten years of the social revolution, as a result.

I admit that I was optimistic about Apple’s ability to shift into the social web — but Steve Jobs illness and later death was a major distraction for the firm. And in 2011 I thought Google would have made the move that Page is apparently now getting around to, after kicking out Gundoltra — and presumably his protegé, Bradley Horowitz, soon — the faction that wanted the monolithic Google+ to ‘win’ the war against the monolithic Facebook.
But that is the last war, a war clearly lost. And Facebook has moved to the app era, with acquisitions like Instagram, Whatsapp, and Moves, and new in house projects like Paper. Page has decided to embed the social infrastructure of Google+ into the operating system — in Android and Chrome — where it always belonged. Then we can finally have the next social era, which we won’t call social anymore, because it will be ubiquitous. Just like we don’t generally think about the air we are moving around in, and the fish doesn’t see the water.
Microsoft fumbled its chance to acquire the teeny-weeny Facebook and build that into Windows. Apple missed its chance with Twitter — although perhaps that could still be turned around — despite giving Twitter a special status in iOS (see Twitter: The Social Kernel For iOS 5).
So Google has a chance with Google+, or better said, with Page’s decision to scrap the monolith and convert Google+ into componentry to support more apps like Hangouts. Maybe they’ll finally get around to creating a social calendar and social email, at long, long last.

What Apple’s zero pricing of iOS, Mac OS X, and iWork means

Apple’s announcements last week create a high water mark from several trends, and in one case we are witnessing a clean break with the past into a long-anticipated tomorrow.

The incremental improvements to the iPad line of products — over 170 million have been shipped in two years — continue, the best example of the rapid transition to companion devices (smartphones and tablets) away from desktop and laptop computing. While Apple is releasing new souped-up MacBooks and iMacs, they are starting to look like highly specialized devices particularly geared toward high-end applications — like film and music production — rather than office workhorses.

Microsoft unveiled its next tablet, the Surface 2, which is considered by those who have fooled with it a much better product than the Surface, but still not competitive with iPad and Android alternatives, and inferior to Nokia’s Lumia 2520, which also runs Windows RT.

Still, all these doings in one week underline the trend to companion devices, the steep decline of the old model of computing, and how rapidly our notions of productivity are changing.

And along those lines — the changing nature of work productivity — Apple’s biggest news has to do with its iWork tools. The release of OS X Mavericks led to an upgrade of the operating system and a new version of the beta iCloud implementation. I wrote about some of the more technical useage pros and cons earlier in the week (see Apple moves to edge out Microsoft Office and Google Drive), but the biggest change announced by Apple is not about the (relatively immature) coediting and document sharing of this iteration of iCloud. The big news is that Apple is making the iWorks software for iOS and Mac OS free with new hardware purchases. Note that it has also made the upgrade to OS X Mavericks free for everyone, not just for new hardware buys.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball makes the clear argument of how Apple and Google are pinching Microsoft in the operating system and Office software sales sector.

John Gruber, Thoughts and Observations Regarding This Week’s Apple Event Introducing the iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini

This puts Microsoft in a tight spot. Apple gives away software for free in exchange for your buying their hardware. This is not charity. It’s also in marked contrast to Google, who gives away software for free in exchange for selling your attention (and personal information) to advertisers. Apple and Google are squeezing Microsoft from both sides, and the result is that less and less perceived value in the industry resides solely in software. You can make money selling hardware (like Apple) or make money selling ads (like Google), but given the popularity of Apple’s hardware and Google’s apps and services, it’s getting harder for Microsoft to make money by selling software.

Well, to narrow that down a bit: it’s going to be incredibly hard for Microsoft to make money selling Windows or Office when people are getting Google Docs/Drive and Apple iWork/iCloud for free.

Microsoft’s recent quarterly results (see Microsoft results point to the future, one that is all business) show that the growth area for Microsoft is in enterprise software, and losing the dominant position of Microsoft Office would be an enormous strategic blunder.

I am betting that the next Microsoft CEO — which should be on point in the next few months — if he or she has any awareness of where the winds are blowing should quickly move to drastically drop the price of Office and Windows, and best would be dropping the price to zero. For everyone, on every platform, including Android, iOS, and Mac OS X.

This battle isn’t about near-term software revenue, it’s a battle about one of the cornerstones of the working world: creating and sharing documents. Microsoft will have to forgo the cash flow from Office and Windows in order to keep in close contact with the information sharing habits of people everywhere.

The other side of those habits is the emergence of file sync-and-share platforms, like Dropbox, Box, Hightail, and Intralinks, that backfill a gaping pothole in today’s operating systems: the lack of a distributed, virtual file system that leverages our ubiquitous connectivity to the internet (see The future of work: new paths to productivity). Microsoft, Apple, and Google are fighting back with Skydrive, iCloud, and Drive, respectively, but ultimately will have to build that functionality into the operating system level. (That will most likely happen by acquisition, although why it hasn’t already escapes me.)

And yes, those super-duper next generation operating systems with built-in file sync-and-share functionality will also be for free as they become increasingly social.

It appears that three approaches are appearing — if Microsoft does what I propose:

  1. Apple will give OS and office software away, to get you to pay a premium for their hardware.
  2. Google will give OS and office software away, to get you to give information for targeted advertising.
  3. Microsoft give OS and office software away, to get you to buy their enterprise software.

This is a really profound shift at the foundation of office (so-called ‘productivity’) software.

PointDrive is an innovative social sales app, well-suited to a mobile workforce

The social sales is accelerating at about the same velocity as the adoption of companion devices. Products like Crushpath have been innovating approaches like PitchSites (see Crushpath raises $6M in series A, launches Pitch Sites), which support sales people who want to make one page pitch-specific websites tailored to each customer.

But the newest innovators in this area are breaking with the webpage metaphor. The sales user is composing pitches, and sending invitations via email to have potential clients open them, but they don’t seem like a webpage. One of these innovators is PointDrive, who showed off their wares at Demo this week.

Here’s the compose ‘presentation’ view in the tool, where the user can add a series of ‘entries’ to comprise the presentation, each entry supported by an image — a screenshot, a chart, a person opening an umbrella, whatever — with a caption of text. Note that these can be pulled from Dropbox or your hard drive, and they are planning on Box and Google Drive integration in the near term.

Screenshot 2013-10-17 16.38.18

These pitches can be customized, but alternatively they can be sent out as-is, with customization of the pitch in the email only.

Screenshot 2013-10-17 16.39.47

The prospect sees a message like this in their email:Screenshot 2013-10-17 16.45.21

(I don’t know why my head is stretched in this email: it looks fine in PointDrive.) Once the prospect clicks the ‘view’ button, they are taken to the presentation, with the option to reply to the sender, and the option to forward to other colleagues.

Screenshot 2013-10-17 16.47.23

In this case, Other Boyd forwarded it to Another Boyd. Back in the sales person’s PointDrive account, all of these actions: sending, receiving, opening, and forwarding are captured, so the sales person can track what’s happening in each pitch, and know what next step to take.

It seems to me like this list approach should be amped up to allow sorting by stage, and a view that shows the next step to take in the deals. Perhaps that would be best accomplished by some version of predefined or user-defined steps in a pitch cycle, up to and including the prospect doing more than just replying, but perhaps checking boxes — ‘Yes, I’d like to discuss this in a call’, ‘Yes, please send me more information’ or “Yes, my company needs an assessment of our HR software and practices’.

Screenshot 2013-10-17 16.50.24

The Bottom Line

PointDrive is a new entry in the rapidly maturing world of social sales, and perhaps the product that seems to best suit the mobility of today’s workforce. I’d like to see more attention to visual graphics, like bar charts showing how many and which pitches had been opened, forwarded, replied to, and acted on in other ways. As I said, PointDrive should either create an internal mechanism for tracking deal flow, or integrate with other task managers to do so. But I like what I see so far.

I think PointDrive and its competitors are indicating the nature of flow-based business, as another outgrowth of the impact of the social web. Instead of making static webpages, and convincing people to visit them, the new metaphor is to create a social object — the pitch — and to have a conversation around it, and to invite others to get involved over time.

In this case, the pitch isn’t streamed in Twitter or Facebook: it’s emailed. But that’s just the current common denominator. Once we slip over the edge into social operating systems (see Coming soon to an operating system near you: file sync-and-share), then products like PointDrive will be dropping this into our open social streams. The pieces are all falling into place for a transition that will be potentially have as large an impact as the browser-based social web has had to date.