Google’s Next Play: Your Assistant For Everything - Not Just Answers

This blog post is co-authored by VP and Principal Analyst Julie Ask and Analyst Andrew Hogan at Forrester.

Google held an event in San Francisco this week to announce several new consumer products – a smartphone, a wireless speaker, Wi-Fi routers, a virtual reality headset and an updated Chromecast solution. All showcased an emerging strategic direction for Google and some killer engineering and design skills.

None of it impressed as much as the demos of Google Assistant – Google’s virtual assistant.

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Bots: The Next Big Thing In Mobile? Not So Fast.

Everyone is buzzing this week about bots with Facebook/Messenger’s anticipated launch of bots on its messenger platform. What is a bot you ask? A bot is a chat-based interface that helps consumers complete tasks -- ordering take-out food, chatting with their doctors, or checking the score of a big sports game. Many believe that this next step -- bots in conversation with consumers -- is imminent. We agree, but not so fast.

There are a few trends playing in favor of bots becoming the next big user interface:

  1. Apps put a huge burden on consumers. The app ecosystem forces consumers to orchestrate getting the content and services that they need -- sometimes in a single app, most times through a composition of many. And this doesn’t even address individual app quality -- too many of them are simply awful. We're forced through processes translated from online that make no sense on the go or on our mobile phones.
  2. Bots foster natural communication. Having a bot is like having an assistant. You can chat with the bot, ask the bot to do things for you -- like order take-out or get a new lipstick. They are a natural extension of how we communicate and use our mobile phones.
  3. Consumers spend 84% of their time in only five apps each month. Chances are that one or two of those are social media, instant messaging,etc., as a handful of mobile giants like Facebook, Google and Apple in the US own a disproportionate number of customers mobile moments, measured both by time and data. Consumers are asking for a better experience.
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Backend-as-a-Service: Bring Out Your Dead!

Appcelerator was acquired by Axway. Parse (once acquired by Facebook) closes up shop. It’s been a busy week in the BaaS world. It all reminds me of the “Bring out your dead!” sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except this time it’s mobile development shops driving the cart looking for the last remnants of BaaS companies to throw on the pile! Yet it was only 3 years ago that the BaaS space came into the mainstream — what happened?

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The Breathtaking Future of Software Development -- It's Already Here!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" -- William Gibson

I recently drove a Tesla for the first time. As a kid that grew up in a car dealership (my father and grandfather both owned one) I grew up with a love of cars, speed, and pushing limits. Driving that Tesla changed everything; as a developer I'm starting to feel a experience a similar set of feelings. Developers love change -- and technology provides a constant stream of bright shiny objects for us to chase. Fortunately we're being blessed by many of these objects to chase lately -- to the point that the current velocity of change _around everything we do_ is starting to take my breath away! I equate it to driving a Tesla at the edge of ludicrous mode; incredibly exciting with the knowledge that one false step means sure peril. The areas that are currently exciting me are:
 
The Web plumbing is changing. Earlier this year the Internet Archive put out a call to help building the new distributed web. They point to a number of challenges around the current web -- it's fragile, not reliable, not private, and needs a way to keep track of changes over time. Fortunately some early options are appearing about that I'm digging into, particularly Ethereum, IPFS, Blockchain, and HTTP/2. Each of these brings significant change to how we build, deploy, and scale applications.
 
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Customer-Obsessed Technology Platforms: If You Don't Know, You're Doing IT Wrong

 
"I don't know about you people, but I don't want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do."
-- Gavin Belson, Silicon Valley
 
Writing software to make the world a better place -- that's a lofty goal, even for Gavin Belson on the HBO hit comedy, Silicon Valley. Yet why is it that we've spent years doing the exact opposite with software in enterprise IT? We've built applications to simply show data living in our data centers. Have a lot of products to sell? Put them all on a web page! Myriad of services you offer to your customers? Throw them all on that web page too! If they really want our help, they'll figure out what it all means, right?
 
Unfortunately this is a terrible way to create applications, regardless if it's on the web, mobile, or any other emerging digital channel. The data is good, but we cannot start with our data in mind -- instead we must start with our customers' needs in mind. But why this change and why now? Our customers (and increasingly our employees) are being presented with so many more options from your competitors, both those known today and tomorrow's digital startups. Simply put, the barrier to creating new software solutions is approaching zero. Making this transformation is central to the BT Agenda -- applying technology to win, serve, and retain customers.
 
 
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Mobile Development: The 2015 Crystal Ball

Mobile developers change people's lives every single day -- they create innovative experiences, reshape how we spend our time, and give us continual access to Facebook and Twitter (the latter being especially important to the author!). The pace at which these new experiences are delivered continues to amaze, yet continues to speed up. As a recovering enterprise mobile developer myself, I'm always tracking the new tools and technologies that developers are using to maintain this pace and provide new innovation. With that in mind, we've published a report on the mobile development predictions for 2015; the changes that will allow developers to continue to produce amazing innovation at a continually faster rate. We've highlighted 8 in the report, but the ones that are especially exciting to me are:

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Potholes In My Digital Experience! Is The Solution A New Mobile App?

Driving home from the Boston Logan airport in the winter can be an adventure. Fortunately, local governments have set up a means for reporting one of the perils — potholes. I know this because an overhead digital sign told me the number to call if I saw one. I appreciate the opportunity to help out, but the inefficiencies in this system make me cringe! If I see a pothole, I have to remember where it was until I have a chance to write it down. I also have to remember the nearest cross-street or landmark to help crews identify the proper location. And if I come across a second pothole before writing down all the first information? No chance I remember either. Does anyone remember playing the telephone game as kids? This is the modern version.

Many of our clients call with a similar challenge — how do we modernize manual processes for a digital/mobile world? With that in mind, how are many solving this today?

Create a mobile app. Mobile first! Everything is mobile these days, so let's jump on that train! While this is a good start, it’s important to understand the context of the user. There’s a good chance they’re using the GPS app on their phone to find the optimal way home. To use a new app, I have to go to the app list, find the new “Report Pothole” app, wait for it to initialize, and then report the incident. By then I’m no longer at the physical location and thus haven’t solved much of the manual problem. Solving this requires a better first step…

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Enterprise Mobile Development: Embrace APIs Or Dig Your Grave

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. — Morpheus, The Matrix
 
Mobile development, like Morpheus in The Matrix, offers two options: Take the blue pill and assume that mobile is just another screen size to front ends that we’ve already created. Take the red (with me) and understand that mobile changes not just the front end, but your entire technology stack! Ready to look down the rabbit hole?
 
A new supply/demand paradigm is driving enterprise architects and application development professionals to a technology inflection point. The demand is for mobile apps — consumers have an insatiable appetite for more apps, developed and updated at breakneck speeds that deliver mind-blowing experiences. And the mobile app consumers aren’t just external — they’re also employees and business partners. As app-dev pros, where do we turn to supply this growing demand? Application programming interfaces, better known as APIs.
 
Before we get into details of this challenge in the real world, I’ll promote my four-tier architecture that looks at this API layer within the entire technology stack used to support your mobile efforts. You’ll find it in my report Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform.
 
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Delivering Mobile Innovation: Watch Out For Roadblocks!

I’m often asked how to enable corporate mobile innovation. While important, equally important are knowing what roadblocks you’ll hit when implementing a mobile strategy that highlights your innovation. From an application development and delivery perspective, the three that I focus on are:

  • Time-to-market requirements. Rarely do I talk to a client and hear “We need a mobile app in the next 12 to 18 months.” Instead, most want them yesterday. Successful mobile projects now take roughly four months to complete; many come in shorter than that. Fitting into this schedule requires your development cycle teams (requirements, design, dev, and test) to all work together on the same schedule. Reducing the traditional friction between these teams is a combination of better cross-discipline tooling (think Adobe Photoshop working directly with Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect) and better communication. The tooling is coming — start working on the communication now.
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Development In The Enterprise: The Mobile Path Is Clear And Getting Easier!

I stated a few months ago that “data is the new currency” and that “the API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.” Fast-forward to today: two moves this week prove that Intel and CA Technologies agree and are betting heavily on this strategy with acquisitions of Mashery and Layer 7. This will not be the end of the acquisition spree in this space; I’m sure we’ll see more API management companies (and a few BaaS companies) get gobbled up soon. If you’re currently implementing or planning a mobile strategy in your enterprise, what does this mean for you?

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